Former Terenure teacher admitted sex abuse 20 years before Garda inquiry

Sentencing hearing for John McClean (76), who indecently assaulted pupils at Dublin school

 Former rugby coach and teacher John McClean. File Photograph:  Matt Browne

Former rugby coach and teacher John McClean. File Photograph: Matt Browne

 

A former rugby coach and teacher at a Dublin private school who abused 23 students admitted to one of the allegations in 1996, a court has heard.

John McClean (76) abused the boys between 1973 and 1990 while he worked for Terenure College.

He left the school in 1996 after certain allegations were made and took up a role coaching rugby with UCD.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court was told that when this allegation arose in 1996, McClean had meetings with Father Robert Kelly, the then Provincial of the Carmelite Order in Ireland, and during one of these meetings McClean admitted to the allegation.

The court heard the first complaint to gardaí ­ in the case was made in 2016.

When providing gardaí­ with notes of this meeting during the investigation into these offences, Fr Kelly said he had no recollection of this, but that if it was in the notes then “it was true”.

McClean assaulted several of the victims under the guise of fitting them for costumes for plays he produced in the school. He also abused boys he brought to his office after they had gotten into trouble in class.

One such victim was the younger brother of another victim. The court heard that some of the victims believed they were either not selected for or dropped from the school rugby team as punishment for challenging him over his sexual abuse of them.

‘Evil personified’

One victim said in this victim impact statement that McClean was “evil personified” and that he had “crossed paths with the devil at Terenure College”.

Another victim said in his impact statement that he hoped a landmark will be built on the grounds of the college as an acknowledgement of the past. He said such a gesture would go some way to healing the victims and their family members.

McClean, of Casimir Avenue, Harold’s Cross, Dublin, pleaded guilty to 27 charges of indecently assaulting the males at Terenure College in Dublin on dates between 1973 and 1990. Further charges are being taken into consideration.

The accused had denied all offences when interviewed by gardaí ­ and three trial dates were fixed before he finally pleaded guilty in November 2020. He has no previous convictions.

On Thursday, Inspector Jason Miley told Paul Murray SC, prosecuting, that in 1996 the father of one of the victims informed Fr Robert Kelly, the then Provincial of the Carmelite Order in Ireland, about the allegation his son had made against McClean.

Inspector Miley said Fr Kelly had a number of meetings over the summer break with McClean during which it was made clear McClean would not be returning to Terenure College.

Career break

McClean was granted a three-year career break and became a rugby coach at UCD.

Inspector Miley agreed with Mr Guerin that Fr Kelly had a note of one of the meetings with McClean in 1996 during which McClean admitted to the allegation.

Fr Kelly told gardaí ­ when providing these notes to them during this investigation that he had no recollection of this, but if it was in the notes then “it was true”.

Mr Guerin said his client has instructed him to give an “unreserved and unconditional apology”.

He said his client was “ashamed” of what he did and that no victim bares any responsibility for any of the offences or any of the harm done by him. Counsel said said his client wants to publicly acknowledge that by his action he has done great harm to Terenure College, to the wider community and to the Carmelite Order, for which he is sorry. Mr Guerin said his client took “a full part in the life of the school”.

He said there can be a temptation to see such involvement as being “purely for the cynical purpose of providing opportunities for offending”.

Counsel asked the court to not see it in this light, but to see the offending as “a deviation or aberration, albeit one much repeated, from a positive role he was able to play in the lives of others”.

Mr Guerin said it cannot be said that this offending was out of character, but it can be said that it was only a part of his client’s character.

Dying in custody

Counsel said even a relatively short sentence could have the consequence of his client dying in custody. He said his client understands he will receive a custodial sentence.

At a previous sentencing hearing, Mr Murray told the court that McClean was an English teacher at Terenure College between 1966 and 1996. He also worked as a rugby coach in the school and was involved in costume fitting for school plays until around 1979.

Mr Murray said that from the early 1980s, McClean was the first year “form master” and had his own office. He was appointed to his role some time after being removed from involvement with school plays following allegations being made against him. Judge Pauline Codd remanded McClean on continuing bail and adjourned the matter for finalisation to February 18th.

Earlier on Thursday, the court hearsd McClean told some of his victims they could chose between being hit and their parents being told they were misbehaving, a court has heard.

He hit these victims with rulers and indecently assaulted them in his office after the boys had been put out of class.

The court heard that some of the victims believed they were either not selected for or dropped from the school rugby team as punishment for challenging him over his sexual abuse of them.

Inspector Miley, who had given evidence regarding 15 of the 23 victims at a previous sentencing hearing, gave evidence on Thursday about the final eight victims.

Inspector Miley said the first boy was aged around 12 when he was called out of class for a costume fitting as he had been cast in a play. McClean told the boy to get undressed including taking off his underwear, but the boy refused to take his underwear off.

After the boy had put on tights, McClean put his hand down the boy’s underwear and cupped his genitals. This continued for a short period of time until the boy pushed him away.

The second boy was aged around 12 when McClean told him to come to his office after school after the boy had been caught smoking. McClean asked the boy what Christmas would be like for his family if they found out about this, causing the boy to start crying.

‘Six of the best’

McClean said his parents would not need to find out if he was given “six of the best”. He put the boy across his knee and hit him with rulers, then rubbed the boy’s buttocks with his hand.

The third boy was aged around 12 when McClean began abusing him, continuing to do so while the boy was in first, second and third year in the school. McClean would send the boy to his office to be punished where he would hit the boy with a ruler and then rub his behind afterwards.

McClean later began asking the boy questions about sex. The victim remembered McClean touching his penis.

The fourth boy was around 12 when he was abused by McClean after being sent to his office. McClean hit him 10 times with a ruler while his trousers were down and afterwards held the boy tightly and started rubbing his back up and down.

The fifth boy was in second year in the school when he was twice abused by McClean. On the first occasion McClean grabbed the boy in a locked classroom, put his hands down the boy’s trousers touching his buttocks over his underwear and pulled their groins together.

On the second occasion the boy was called for a costume fitting during which McClean told him to take all his clothes off, though the boy refused to take his underwear off. McClean pulled the boy towards him, put his hands inside the boy’s underwear and felt his buttocks.

The sixth boy was aged around 12 when he was called out of class for a costume fitting. McClean told him to take off all his clothes and put on a pink dress, which the boy did.

McClean touched the boy’s genitals and buttocks, then got on top of him on the floor and gyrated against the boy. During this McClean continued speaking to the boy, at one point saying “does your daddy do this to you?”.

Tickling

The seventh boy was aged around 16 when McClean began tickling him during a costume fitting. McClean went from tickling the boy to lying on top of him, touching the boy’s behind and rubbing up against him.

The eighth boy was aged around 12 when McClean brought him back to his office after he had been put out of class. McClean told him he could choose between being suspended or being slapped and the boy said he preferred to be slapped.

McClean put the boy over his knee and touched hie genitals before he hit him with a ruler repeatedly. After each time he hit the boy, McClean would rub the boy’s behind with the ruler.