Former Clongowes pupil says Fr Joe Marmion ‘screened’ him for abuse

Jesuit priest’s sex abuse may have predated his time at Belvedere in the 1970s

A priest the Jesuits named as having sexually, physically and emotionally abused pupils in Belvedere College, Dublin in the 1970s had a reputation for extreme cruelty and for sexual deviancy at another private school in the 1960s.

A former pupil at Clongowes Wood College, Co Kildare told The Irish Times he was taken into an office in the school by Fr Joe Marmion, who then drew the blinds and played a video reel on a projector of women in swimming costumes around a swimming pool.

While pointing to parts of the women’s bodies, Fr Marmion asked the then schoolboy if he “knew what they were for” and quizzed him about what he knew of “the facts of life”, goading him that another boy said he did not.

The former pupil said he believed he was being interviewed or screened for suitability for sexual abuse, though he was not subsequently abused. He said Fr Marmion would walk into a classroom as a lesson was underway and the priest taking the class “would be cowering” in his presence. Fr Marmion then called out the name of a boy to come out of the class and accompany him to his office to be shown the video.



“I don’t think he began these things in Belvedere, it was going on with him in Clongowes,” the man said. However, the former pupil added no other boys he was in school with had ever confided in him they had been sexually abused by Fr Marmion, though the Jesuits have named him as a sexual abuser during his time in Belvedere in the 1970s.

The former Clongowes pupil, now retired, recalled Fr Marmion was the “prefect of studies” and oversaw other priests, adding he had “a reputation that was feared” and was “the main punisher”.

While a small group of priests was responsible for administering corporal punishment, which was widespread in Irish education at the time, the man said they did so “with a detachment”, except for Fr Marmion, who “seemed to relish it”.

Boys were beaten with a strap device referred to as “cockers, which you got on the bare bum” and also with a paddle-type device called a “pandybat” used to strike boys on the hands.

In reply to queries, the Jesuits said they did not have information to explain the circumstances of Fr Marmion’s departure from Clongowes in 1965 and, specifically, if he was moved on because allegations emerged about him.

Second stint

Originally from Liverpool, Fr Marmion worked at Crescent College, Limerick from 1959 to 1962 before moving to Clongowes until 1965 and going back to Crescent College for a second stint from 1965 to 1969, at which point he was appointed to Belvedere until 1978 after allegations emerged of sexual abuse.

On Tuesday the Jesuits named Fr Marmion, stating he had abused boys in Belvedere, a fee-paying school in Dublin’s north inner city and where he taught from 1969 to 1978.

He was moved, first going to Paris for a year and later Gardiner Street Jesuit Community in Dublin’s north inner city before being appointed in 1990 as chaplain to St Vincent’s Private Hospital, where he died in November 2000.

“We recognise that these subsequent appointments should not have been made,” the Jesuits said, adding that others who suffered would come forward and “get the support they may need”.

Fr Marmion’s abuse was known as least as far back as 1978 and he was moved from Belvedere when the alarm was raised about his activities. His conduct was not reported to the Garda until 2002, two years after his death.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent