Johnny Watterson: What a pity UCD do not have access to John McClean records

College responded to Irish Times FOI request saying they have no control over rugby club

John McClean, a former teacher and rugby coach, was sentenced to eight years in prison last February for the sexual abuse of 23 boys in Terenure College between 1973 and 1990. Photo: Collins Courts

John McClean, a former teacher and rugby coach, was sentenced to eight years in prison last February for the sexual abuse of 23 boys in Terenure College between 1973 and 1990. Photo: Collins Courts

 

You may have read this week that following a response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from The Irish Times, UCD said it did not hold any records relating to former coach John McClean, or any documents relating to his hiring.

Furthermore, UCD explained that McClean was not employed as director of rugby by UCD, but employed by the UCD Rugby Club, and the university do not have control over, or access to, the records of the rugby club that bears its name.

It’s such a pity that UCD do not have control over, or access to, the records of the rugby club that bears its name, one that has been in existence since 1911 and plays in the campus grounds as well as on a stadium pitch, the Belfield Bowl – land owned and supplied by the university.

McClean (76) from Harold’s Cross in Dublin went on quite an extensive crime spree before he was sentenced to eight years in prison last February for the sexual abuse of 23 boys in Terenure College between 1973 and 1990.

Ireland’s largest educational institution has said they didn’t know about allegations when McClean was recruited as director of UCD rugby after he was told to leave Terenure in 1996. This came following a meeting the school principal at the time had with the parents of a child who had made a complaint.

UCD say they became aware of the allegations against McClean only when his name came into the public domain in 2018.

The pursuit of excellence is part of the mission of UCD. That’s what it says in the bit on their website about sports scholarships in rugby. It lists the good things that can happen if a student gains a scholarship, a much sought-after benefit.

The website lists what a UCD sports scholarship programme may include: Access to the UCD High Performance Centre, free pool membership, access to on-campus accommodation, tuition fees, books, equipment, sport medicine and testing facilities, reduced physiotherapy costs, travel to national and international competitions and academic support.

Lucrative

That’s quite a tidy bundle the university is offering but it does not include control over, or access to, the records of the rugby club that bears its name.

UCD also has a cracking Graduate Sports Scholarship Programme that can be taken in several of its other prestigious schools including UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. The UCD College of Science, UCD School of Education and UCD School of Engineering and Food Science are also part of the smorgasbord of offerings.

How lucrative it is to land a graduate sports scholarship as it can give a young rugby player an ‘Academic Fee Reduction of up to 50 per cent’ as well as ‘Full Ongoing Academic Mentoring & Support.’ It can provide access to ‘Performance Gyms and Elite Sporting Facilities’, access to ‘Professional Strength and Conditioning Support and Nutritional Advice’ as well as qualification from Ireland’s, their words, ‘Leading University. ’

All that money and tuition and exposure to the best training facilities and advice and the university do not have control over, or access to, the records of the rugby club that bears its name.

Under ‘Reputation of Sport in UCD’ it says that “UCD is unique among universities in Ireland and probably abroad with teams participating in the premier national competitions of a number of sports including soccer, hockey and rugby.”

It says this competitive thrust is supported by innovation off the field. It says UCD pioneered the concept of sports scholarships in Ireland and now has the most advanced sports scholarship programme of any third level institution in the country but does not have control over, or access to, the records of the rugby club that bears its name.

It was reported by Jack Power that nearly a dozen of the club’s current officers were contacted by The Irish Times, but all declined to comment on McClean. That’s their right. The president of UCD Rugby Club, David Carrigy, World Rugby’s head of development and international relations, said he had nothing further to add to the club’s statement, which called out McClean’s crimes as ‘abhorrent’ and his actions as ‘unforgivable.’

Quite clear

For the record here is what the Irish Times FOI request asked to see from the vaults of the UCD Rugby Club. “1. A copy of the employment contract of the UCD director of rugby in 1997. 2. A copy of all employment references supplied for John McClean, in relation to his taking up the role of UCD director of rugby, in the years 1996/1997. 3. Correspondence between UCD, and either Terenure College or the Order of the Carmelites, in relation to UCD director of rugby John McClean sent and received between May 1996 and May 1997.”

The UCD response was also quite clear. “A head to whom an FOI request is made may refuse to grant the request where - (a) the record concerned does not exist or cannot be found after all reasonable steps to ascertain its whereabouts have been taken.”

What UCD needs to ask now is how much reputational damage it has suffered and if it has suffered any how it can be retrieved. It’s just a pity that with all that investment, all that scholarship money, all the leverage the university possesses, it does not have control over, or access to the records of the rugby club that bears its name.

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