The granddaughter of a former lord mayor of Cork, who had been convicted of child sexual abuse, yesterday spoke out on the day of his funeral about the abuse she suffered — and her relief at his death.
John Murray was laid to rest yesterday with a number of current and former city councillors and ex-TDs attending the service.
Fianna Fáil city councillors Sean Martin and Terry Shannon were present, as was former Labour TD Toddy O’Sullivan, former Fianna Fáil TD Noel O’Flynn, Siptu general secretary and former Labour city councillor Joe O’Flynn, his brother and former city councillor Denis O’Flynn, and former Fine Gael city councillor Jim Corr.
Lord Mayor Des Cahill did not attend as he said it was “not appropriate”.
The director of the Cork Sexual Violence centre, Mary Crilly, criticised Sean Martin’s decision to offer the city council’s condolences to the former lord mayor’s family on his death.
She said it had caused unnecessary pain for some of the wider Murray family.
“If Sean Martin hadn’t done what he had, that man could have been buried quietly by one half of his family and his granddaughter would not have been forced to waive her anonymity and speak out about what happened to her,” said Ms Crilly.
Speaking to Neil Prendeville on Red FM, victim Elaine Murray described Cork City Council’s actions as a “slap in the face”.
Her grandfather has been jailed for a year in 2013 and placed on the sex offenders register for sexually assaulting Ms Murray who, at the time, had told the court the abuse had “consumed” and “tainted” her adult life.
John Murray first abused his granddaughter when she was 13.
“I am so upset that he was even mentioned at the city council the other night. I knew I couldn’t airbrush history. I never attempted to airbrush history. His name is still on plaques in the city and I appreciate that.
“The trial was extremely hard. It was all over the media. It was national news. It was a horrible experience. It was horrific. I was happy he received a custodial sentence at all because these cases are so hard to prove. But I thought it was very lenient and he was released after nine months.
“It burst the family in half. There are members of the Murray family who are grieving today. But there are other members of the Murray family who are not. There has been such a divide in our family that for other members of the family this is a relief. It is a relief that he is gone.”
Ms Murray described how she was “too afraid to speak out” about the abuse for years as her grandfather was a “big, strong man and… was very, very fit”.
John Murray initially admitted “certain aspects” of the abuse but “by the time, we got to court he had retracted it”, she said.
Ms Murray described how during her teens, she was known as “the awkward one” in her family. She “hated family occasions” and didn’t want to go on family holidays. She developed an eating disorder and battled depression.
Last night, Sean Martin said it was never his intention to cause offence to Ms Murray or the family members who have supported her.
But he said he has known members of the family for decades, and that the vote of condolence he proposed at Monday’s meeting of Cork City Council was for them.
“They have done nothing wrong,” he said. “I have three daughters myself and I can’t imagine what [Ms Murray] went through or what she is going through. This was never meant to cause offence.”
Mr Martin declined to comment on whether he felt he owed Ms Murray and her father an apology.
Mr Cahill said he made a decision that the office of the lord mayor would not be represented at the funeral yesterday. “I just don’t think it would have been appropriate,” he said. “I am aware that the family is split and if the presence of the office of the lord mayor was not going to be welcomed by all it should not be there at all.”
Giving evidence during a four-day trial at Cork Circuit Criminal Court, retired taxi driver and former Labour city councillor John Murray had insisted that none of the assaults ever occurred. He said he was shocked and disgusted by the allegations.
He died in Marymount Hospice last Saturday after a long illness. He was buried following a requiem Mass at the Lough Church in Cork.
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