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Sunday 21 October 2018

Actor tells of physical and sexual abuse

STEPHEN O'BRIEN

ACTOR Gabriel Byrne has revealed publicly for the first time that he was the victim of both physical and sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy.

ACTOR Gabriel Byrne has revealed publicly for the first time that he was the victim of both physical and sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy.

The star of The Usual Suspects and Defence of the Realm said he was subjected to repeated physical and verbal abuse while a pupil at the Christian Brothers national school in Dublin's Drimnagh.

And he told a Sunday newspaper he was sexually abused by a priest who was his Latin teacher in England after he had entered a junior novitiate (in preparation for the priesthood) at the age of just eleven. That man is now dead.

Byrne said that physical abuse was part of the Irish education system in the 1950s and early 1960s.

``Your daily life was filled with fear because you never knew where the belt was going to come from,'' he said. ``In the Christian Brothers we were being physically abused. Things like being lifted off the ground by your hair and being beaten with chair legs.''

It was also an open secret within the school that sexual abuse was going on.

The actor told The Sunday Times newspaper that he was sexually abused by a priest in an English novitiate ``under the guise of affection''. One of the incidents took place while he was being told the facts of life.

Byrne said the invasion of his privacy by a man he had trusted left him confused, embarrassed and ashamed. ``I grew up with a deep sense of shame, a tremendous lack of confidence and no self-esteem whatsoever,'' he said.

``I'm not feeling sorry for myself. To be honest, not a great deal of damage was done to me physically. The damage was emotional and that took me a long time to shake off.''

The death of his sister, the break up of his marriage to actress Ellen Barkin, and the death last year of his former partner Aine O'Connor, had been deep personal blows to him. But he said: ``I have come through that pain a different person and I am glad for that.''

Byrne also spoke angrily about the treatment of Ireland's less privileged during the current economic boom

``The Celtic Tiger benefits 5-10pc of people in the upper strata of society, but most people in Ireland don't even get to hold the tiger's tail for a day,'' he said.

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