A 71-year-old priest who continued to say Mass within his religious community after serving three years for sexually abusing schoolboys was sentenced to another three years yesterday for more abuse that dates back more than 30 years.
Judge Donagh McDonagh imposed a total sentence of five years imprisonment on Tadgh Ó Dálaigh of Woodview, Mount Merrion Avenue, Blackrock, Dublin. The last two years of the sentence was suspended.
Judge McDonagh noted from reports prepared for the sentencing hearing at Cork Circuit Criminal court that Ó Dálaigh’s ministry as a priest was confined to celebrating Mass within the community house of his religious order, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, in Dublin.
The judge also acknowledged that Ó Dálaigh had taken active responsibility in managing his risk and adhering to a management plan in this regard which effectively monitored his every moment.
Judge McDonagh acce-pted that this regime was tantamount to an open prison life.
“I think it is fair to say the assessment of Tadgh Ó Dálaigh’s condition is in marked contrast to the condition of the two injured parties, both of whom continue to suffer, one severe post-traumatic stress and one severe personal and emotional problems, including suicidal ideation. Notwithstanding the positive aspect of his management of his life and his age, I think it is absolutely essential that a term of imprisonment must follow from the jury verdict,” he said.
The jury found him guilty of indecently assaulting the boy at the sick bay of Coláiste an Chroí Naofa, Carraig na bhFear, Co Cork, on a date in March or April 1979 by masturbating him until he ejaculated.
Ó Dálaigh had pleaded guilty to five counts of indecent or sexual assault in relation to another victim.
One victim told of how his normal middle-class teenager’s life collapsed around him when the priest sexually assaulted him in the sick bay of a boarding school in 1979 and returned moments afterwards with a Disprin and a glass of water.
His last happy memory was sitting in a friend’s bedroom at the age of 16 without a care in the world listening to Genesis’s Follow You Follow Me. His next memory was of going to boarding school at Coláiste an Chroí Naofa, Carraig na bhFear, Co Cork, and waking up on a Sunday night in Easter 1979 in the sick bay of the school being masturbated until he ejaculated by the priest.
He pretended to sleep until it was over because he went into deep shock. He sat up afterwards. Fr Ó Dálaigh then went away and came back with a glass of water and a Dispirin for the tee.
“He looked at me as potentially to be abused. He looked at me as vulnerable. He saw a boy away from home, vulnerable and alone. It is not something I expected from a priest,” he said.
Later in life he experienced what he described as an emotional collapse. “Part of me felt everyone knew. That has stayed with me. It was difficult to trust, difficult for me to be alone in male company, difficult to go to the doctor or dentist.
“I felt I was going to commit suicide. The court case was incredibly difficult. A lot of friends and family don’t know I am here today. I have no close friends. I have always felt unworthy,” he said.
Fr Ó Dálaigh denied that charge, but pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting another boy by fondling his penis, four times in his bed in the dormitory and once when he caught him and brought him into a classroom.
In his victim impact statement he said that Ó Dálaigh took 30 years of his life and robbed a boy of his innocence, something that could never be given back to him.
This injured party said that it was only with the birth of his son and the sense that his son looked at him and saw a good man that he began to rediscover himself and lose the overwhelming shame he felt for many years. “It is not my shame, it is Fr Ó Dálaigh’s shame,” he said.
Like the other victim, this former Coláiste an Chroí Naofa student attempted suicide in later life.
Tom Creed, defence senior counsel, said the accused had served three years in Mountjoy after he pleaded guilty in 1995 to 10 counts of indecently assaulting a boy at the school. Mr Creed said that when interviewed he admitted sexually assaulting 10 boys, one of whom was the second victim in this case — where five guilty pleas were entered.
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