Priest (74) jailed for indecent assault of boy in Co Cork boarding school

Tadhg Ó Dálaigh accepts verdict of jury following two day trial, sentencing hearing told

Fr Tadhg Ó Dálaigh has been jailed for indecently assaulting a boy while teaching in a boarding school in Cork in the 1980s.

Fr Tadhg Ó Dálaigh has been jailed for indecently assaulting a boy while teaching in a boarding school in Cork in the 1980s.

 

A 74-year-old priest has been jailed for 12 months after he was convicted of indecently assaulting a young boy in a boarding school in Co Cork almost 40 years ago.

Tadhg Ó Dálaigh had denied the single charge of indecently assaulting the boy at the Sacred Heart College in Carriganavar in Co Cork on a date between September 1st 1980 and January 28th 1981.

But the jury of nine men and three women at Cork Circuit Criminal Court took just one hour and 50 minutes last February to find O Dalaigh unanimously guilty of the sole charge on the indictment.

Today, Judge Brian O’Callaghan imposed a two year sentence on Ó Dálaigh, a member of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart order, but suspended the final 12 months of the term.

Sgt Anna Marie Guiney told how the complainant, now a man in his 40s, had been in a sick bay in the Sacred Heart College when Ó Dálaigh came in and touched his genitals under the bed clothes.

She then read a Victim Impact Statement from the complainant where he told how he had suffered from depression, anxiety, low self -esteem and low self-worth as a result of being abused.

This in turn had lead to suicide ideation while he also struggled with alcohol addiction which stemmed from when he started drinking while in school to try and block out the abuse.

“There have also been consequences in my relationships. For years, I was not emotionally available to anyone, particularly my wife and children,” said the man in his victim impact statement.

“I have always been over protective of my children to a point where they have missed out on simple things like sleepovers, etc, because I had difficulty trusting other people, particularly men.”

The man also told how he felt he had been robbed of his youth by the abuse he suffered and it was only since he started going for therapy that he has begun to experience any kind of normal life.

“I know today that happened was not my fault and I have nothing to feel ashamed of. I carried this long enough and now know the responsibility lies 100pc with the person responsible.

“The last few years since I started to face up to and deal with this, while difficult have also been the best years as I am now finding a peace of mind that I have not known before.”

Sgt Guiney confirmed Ó Dálaigh had previous convictions from 1999 and 2014 when he pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting two other boys while teaching in Carrignavar in the 1980s.

Defence counsel Shane Costelloe SC said his client had denied the most recent charge simply because he had no recollection of abusing the boy even though he remembered him as a pupil.

But Ó Dálaigh fully accepted the verdict of the jury and said he wanted to “apologise profusely and sincerely” for the harm he caused his victim by abusing him.

Mr Costelloe submitted that the abuse, while a serious offence, was at the lower end of the scale of such offences as it involved just fondling and did not involve penetration or reciprocation.

He also pointed out O Dalaigh, who remains a member of the order, lives under a very strict regime of supervision with the order at Woodview, Mount Merrion Avenue, Blackrock, Co Dublin.

He had agreed to a Child Protection Safety Plan where he had no contact with children, which he complied with fully and the risk of re-offending was now deemed to be low, he said.

Judge O’Callaghan said the gravity of the offence, involving a huge breach of trust by a man who was in effect in a quasi-parental role at the boarding school, was such it merited a custodial sentence.

And he said that while the abuse may well have been on the lower end of the scale relative to other abuse cases, it was clear that it had hugely devastating impact on the injured party.

He sentenced O Dalaigh to two years in jail but suspended 12 months in recognition of his attempts to rehabilitate himself and ordered him to continue to comply with the child safety protection plan.