Carrignavar school ‘a concentration camp’, say ex-pupils

FORMER pupils of a Co Cork boarding school during the tenure of Fr Donncha Mac Cárthaigh and Fr Tadhg Daly have described the school as “an educational gulag” and “a school that was run like a concentration camp”.

The Irish Examiner has received phonecalls, letters and emails from former pupils praising Senator Mark Daly for using parliamentary privilege to name former Carrignavar College principal Fr Mac Cárthaigh in the Seanad last week.

Fr Mac Cárthaigh, who was a selector and trainer in Cork GAA circles, has been accused of seven counts of sexual abuse and was put on restricted ministry in 1996. However, he has been saying mass, leaving the country regularly and wearing his priest’s collar since.

Fr Daly was convicted of 10 sample counts of indecent assault of a 12-year-old former pupil in 1999 and sentenced to three years in prison.

The first complaint of sexual abuse against Fr Mac Cárthaigh was lodged in 1986.

One west Cork man, who attended the school between 1978 and 1984, described his years at the school as “torture”. He said he and many others were vaguely aware of sexual abuse but that it was physical abuse they dreaded.

“They were brutes, both Dinny Mac [Mac Cárthaigh], the headmaster, and O’Dalaigh, the dean,” one man said. “Fr Daly would catch your skin, on your arm or under your armpit, between his fingers and twist it and lift you right up off the floor. You could be black and blue from it. It was torture.”

Another man, who attended the school between 1978 and 1984, said he would never forget the “sickening violence”.

“I remember one fella getting a huge box across the side of the head during singing practice,” he said. “He was crying mad afterwards and went to Fr Mac Cárthaigh the following day as he was in huge amounts of pain. He was taken to the doctor, where it turned out Mac Cárthaigh had perforated his ear drum.

“When the doctor asked the boy what had happened, Mac Cárthaigh stepped in to say he was hit by a volley ball.

“That man was incredibly violent. The outward appearance might have been of a very nice man, but there was a dark, vicious side.”

Another man, who attended the school between 1972 and 1977, likened it to a concentration camp.

“Daly would hit you with his fist and you wouldn’t be able to move your arm for two weeks,” he said. “The school was ran like a concentration camp. All the teachers knew it was going on and were terrified to say a word.

“They beat the shit out of us. Our fees should be returned with interest. I went back in 1978 and I went up to them and told them they were animals. They ordered me to leave the school grounds.”

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