A priest who indecently assaulted a 12-year-old boy at a school in Co Cork in the 1980s has been jailed for a year.
Tadhg O’Dalaigh of Woodview, Mount Merrion Avenue, Blackrock, Dublin, was convicted by a jury at Cork Circuit Criminal Court earlier this year on a charge of indecently assaulting the boy on an unknown date between September 1, 1980, and January 28, 1981, at the Sacred Heart college, also known as Colaiste An Chroi Naofa, Carraig Na Bhfear, Co Cork.
Speaking through Sgt Anna Marie Guiney, the victim said he suffered depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and self-worth as a result of being sexually abused by O’Dalaigh at the age of 12. He said it impacted on his physical and emotional health and gave rise to suicidal ideation.
The victim said he began to use alcohol when he was still in school in an effort to block out what happened to him and he went on to develop a self-destructive pattern.
“I feel my youth was taken from me and most of my future potential was taken from me. I know what happened was not my fault and not to feel ashamed.
“I carried this long enough. It rests 100% with the defendant. The last few years have been the best years of my life. I have peace of mind and am grateful to my wife.”
Judge Brian O’Callaghan noted that O’Dalaigh, now 74, had previously served a total of six years in jail for other similar offences but he said, “he must serve time for what he did”.
A jury took less than two hours to reach a unanimous guilty verdict earlier this year.
The court heard the assault took place when the young boy was sick in bed.
The victim said: “He put his hand down and touched my testicles and penis. He did that. I just lay there. I didn’t know what to do.
“It was probably a minute, a minute and a half. That is a long time when he is at me. He stopped. He left. I was left lying there. That is basically what happened.”
He said he did not tell anyone about it until about 30 years later.
During the trial, O’Dalaigh denied the assault took place. However, yesterday the court was told he now accepted it happened although he had no memory of it. O’Dalaigh, through his lawyer, said he wanted to apologise sincerely and profusely to the injured party. Defence counsel said the accused is still a priest but did not have a congregation and was in effect under house arrest.
Judge Brian O’Callaghan imposed a two-year jail sentence with half of it suspended.
“This was not an off-the-cuff act on the part of the accused. It was a clear, intentional act on the part of the accused… In terms of culpability and harm caused this is indeed a most grave offence.”
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