Thursday 21 September 2017

Ex-brother becomes fifth man guilty of sex abuse at school

Anita Guidera and Sonya McLean

A FORMER Marist brother yesterday became the fifth man convicted of sexually abusing young boys at one national school.

Christopher Cosgrove (66) was found guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court of 35 charges of sexually abusing four young boys at the school in Sligo more than 40 years ago.

His conviction drew a line under three dark decades in the history of St John's National School in Sligo.

Victims have had their wait for justice prolonged by judicial reviews, appeals and retrials.

But Cosgrove now joins two other former Marist brothers, Martin Meaney and Peter White, and lay teachers Patrick Curran and Michael Cunnane as convicted child abusers in the school's sorry hall of shame.

Between 1966 and 1984, these five teachers were sexually abusing children at the all-boys school in Temple Street in the heart of Sligo town.

But it took until 1996 for the truth to begin to emerge.

Cosgrove, of Cloughreevagh, Ballyhaunis Road, Claremorris in Mayo, had pleaded not guilty to 55 charges of indecent assault at the school on dates between 1968 and 1977.

Judge Patrick McCartan had withdrawn 20 charges from the jury last Friday.

The jury of seven men and five women took seven-and-a-half hours to return unanimous verdicts on the remaining 35 charges on day six of the trial. Judge McCartan remanded Cosgrove on continuing bail to a date next May for sentence. Cosgrove had previously been convicted of the sexual assault of these boys in Sligo Circuit Criminal Court but that conviction was later overturned in the Court of Criminal Appeal.

The wall of silence surrounding St John's had started to crumble when troubled ex-convict Paul Gordon began to disclose the grim details of his abuse, which came to light when he killed his alcoholic father in a row when he was 18.

His persistent complaints led to the eventual launch of a garda investigation in 1999.

Investigators travelled to the UK and spoke to hundreds of alleged victims in the US, Australia and across Ireland.

Thousand

In the end approximately 50 victims emerged and up to 1,000 charges were brought against the five teachers.

Young victims were often targeted because of their good looks or their social backgrounds.

They were routinely sexually abused in the classroom or bathroom.

In many cases they were also physically abused, struck by canes, or locked in cupboards.

They gave evidence of wetting themselves to avoid going to the bathroom, trying to put on weight so they wouldn't be targeted and one boy even of changing his hair colour so he would not be picked.

Gardai say they could find no evidence of a paedophile ring operating at the school which now faces a raft of compensation claims by victims.

Many former pupils say they were unaware of the abuse that was going on.

The now-deceased principal for much of that period, Brother Felim, gave evidence at a previous trial that he too was unaware of any abuse going on.

Irish Independent

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