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Thursday 8 December 2016

Social sites examined in journalist sex probe

Gardai to interview young girls writer trained at local GAA club

Jim CUSACK and MAEVE SHEEHAN

Published 17/04/2011 | 05:00

A PROMINENT sports journalist under investigation after nude images of a teenage girl were found on his mobile phone had allegedly used social networking sites popular with teenagers.

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Gardai are now examining the websites. One social networking site contains hundreds of images and videos of young girls -- aged around 13 or 14, in one instance -- dancing in sports outfits. At the end of the video one girl turns her back to the camera, leans forward and pulls down her track suit bottom to reveal the words "squeeze me" written on her lower back.

The journalist has been in medical care since last month when the images of a girl and text messages to her were first discovered on his mobile phone. Gardai are investigating whether the journalist had unlawful carnal knowledge of the girl.

News of the investigation surfaced last weekend in a Sunday newspaper and the story received national prominence when RTE picked up the report and broadcast it as the second item on the Nine O'Clock News on Sunday night.

The journalist, who writes for a national newspaper, has not been publicly identified.

The nature of the allegations against him has astonished media and sporting colleagues. He is married with children and is prominent in GAA circles. He is actively involved in his local club and has been involved in junior camogie teams at under-14 and under-16 levels.

It is understood that he met the girl in question when she was 14 through his involvement in sports. The girl is now aged 16.

Their alleged relationship is believed to have surfaced last month when the journalist's teenage daughter was collecting old mobile phones to be recycled for charity. Her father gave her a phone. The girl switched on the phone, using her own SIM card, and discovered the images of a naked girl stored on it.

The girl informed her mother, who confronted the journalist. He allegedly attempted suicide and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, where he remains. His wife, meanwhile, is believed to have reported him to her local garda station.

Gardai then interviewed the girl who featured on his phone. According to sources, she confirmed she knew the journalist and that a relationship had developed between them over time.

Gardai are not expected to question the journalist for some time. They plan to interview the very large number of young girls he has had contact with for at least four years, mainly through camogie training but also school-related events. He appears to have devoted large amounts of time to events involving the girls and accompanied them on many trips, including at least one abroad.

He also wrote on occasion about young women in sports in his newspaper columns.

The investigation is being led by gardai in north Dublin and regional headquarters in Harcourt Square. Women detectives trained to deal with minors who are victims of rape and sexual abuse may already have interviewed the girl. The assistance of the Garda's Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit at Harcourt Square is also available to investigators.

By coincidence, the GAA hosted a conference on child protection at Croke Park last weekend, as identifying children at risk has become a major priority in recent years with the repeated instances of men involved in sports found to be abusers. The GAA has a national child protection officer and is encouraging all clubs to appoint appropriate people in the same role.

Sunday Independent

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