A normal middle-class teenager’s life collapsed around him when a 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.
This victim of Tadhg Ó Dálaigh, aged 71, of Woodview, Mount Merrion Avenue, Blackrock, Dublin, and another victim of the priest both told yesterday of attempting suicide as a result of feelings of self-loathing after the sexual abuse.
The abuse in the sick bay was denied by Ó Dálaigh but a jury found him guilty earlier this year. In a statement read by investigating officer Sgt Ann Marie Guiney yesterday, this victim described how the abuse had affected him.
His said his last happy memory was sitting in a friend’s bedroom aged 16 without a care in the world listening to Genesis’ ‘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 at Easter 1979 in the sick bay of the school being masturbated by the priest until he ejaculated. He pretended to sleep until it was over because he went into deep shock. He sat up afterwards. Ó Dálaigh then went away and came back with a glass of water and a Disprin for the sick boy.
“He looked at me as potential to be abused,” said the victim. “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 experienced what he described as an emotional collapse later in life.
“Part of me felt everyone knew. That has stayed with me,” he said. “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... A lot of friends and family don’t know I am here today. I have no close friends. I have always felt unworthy.”
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 yesterday that Ó Dálaigh took 30 years of his life and robbed a boy of his innocence, something that could not be returned.
This injured party said 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 lose the overwhelming shame he felt for years.
“It is not my shame” he said. “It is Fr Ó Dalaigh’s shame.”
Tom Creed SC, defending, 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.
Judge Donagh McDonagh described the victims’ statements as impressive and he remanded the accused in custody until December 18, indicating the likelihood of a jail term. He said: “I have just been handed a substantial amount of papers in the last 10 minutes and I have had no opportunity to read them. I am going to need some time to read them and evaluate them. I don’t want to rush into this lest any injustice arise.”
During the trial, the victim said: “I was quite sick basically. I just went to sleep but in the middle of the night I woke up and Fr Daly was beside my bed. His hands were under the bed clothes. He was touching me. I was shocked. His hand was on my penis. I was wearing pyjamas. Basically it [penis] was out of the fly opening. He was holding it and rubbing it.”
Ó Dálaigh testified: “I would prefer to plead guilty [if it had happened] and move on, get the thing over and done with, but I did not, I did not touch him… I don’t know if he was abused or not but I certainly did not abuse him. Maybe someone abused him but I certainly did not.”
He was adamant that he did not indecently assault a boy at a time when he was ill. Prosecution barrister Pearse Sreenan said in respect of one of that group of 10 injured parties, “You masturbated one of them when he was sick?”
Ó Dálaigh said, “No, He had been sick earlier. He was recovered.” Ó Dálaigh said the boy’s temperature had returned to normal by the time of the abuse.
Mr Sreenan said: “Your concern was not with his health or his temperature, your concern was your personal gratification. You would take his temperature before abusing him? If you wanted to sexually gratify yourself the last thing you would do is take out your thermometer.”
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