A former teacher jailed for the defilement and sexual exploitation of a girl he groomed through Facebook when she was 13 has been struck off the teaching register.
Former post-primary school teacher Cian Cooney, 36, from Ballymahon, Co. Longford, was the subject of a fitness-to-teach inquiry held remotely by a disciplinary panel of the Teaching Council on Friday.
Cooney was previously convicted of various child sexual abuse offences and was sentenced in January to six-and-a-half years' imprisonment, with the final 18 months suspended. He became the subject of a complaint by the Teaching Council when it was notified by An Garda Síochana that he had been charged on 10 counts of defilement of a child under the age of 15, and on two counts of sexual exploitation of a child.
Paul Moroney, the chairperson of the disciplinary panel, said it was the panel’s view that Cooney’s offending was at the “very highest end of a spectrum of wrongdoing" as it involved deliberate and severe harm to a young child.
"She was groomed online initially and the abuse developed over time in a carefully calculated manner until he achieved his purpose of indulging in extreme sexual abuse repeatedly and over a considerable period," he said, adding that the harm caused to the girl will probably have lifelong effects.
Cooney did not appear in person before the disciplinary panel on Friday, but he was represented by his legal counsel. Barry Fagan, a solicitor from Fieldfisher Solicitors acting on behalf of the director of the Teaching Council, provided a summary to the disciplinary panel on the details of the case.
Cooney originally contacted his victim via Facebook in the summer of 2013, when she was 13 years old. She was not a student of his, had just finished first year in school, and was due to turn 14 that November.
Using an alias, he sent her a friend request, and then private messages when she accepted, telling her she looked good and asking her to meet up. He also asked his victim what age she was, to which she told him she was 13.
At this point, Cooney was 28, but he told his victim that he was 18 and worked in a gym. She initially refused to meet up with him when he asked but eventually, she agreed. Texting her on one occasion, Cooney told his victim he had lied originally about being 18, and that he was actually 21.
Contact between the two ended for a period of time but began again in May 2015 when Cooney contacted his victim again. In April 2016, it became “clear” that Cooney was a secondary school teacher and significantly older than he claimed to be, Mr Fagan said.
The victim came forward to gardaí in January 2018. He was removed from the teaching register under Section 44 1A of the Teaching Council Act.