Thursday 22 August 2019

Ex-caretaker at GAA club is jailed for child abuse

Jimmy McDonnell. Photo: Longford Leader
Jimmy McDonnell. Photo: Longford Leader

Aisling Kiernan

A former GAA club caretaker has been sentenced to 12 years in jail after pleading guilty to sexually abusing four children aged between four and 15 years.

Jimmy McDonnell (63), Annaly Park, Co Longford, appeared before Judge Keenan Johnson at Longford Circuit Court facing 45 sample counts of sexually assaulting the children at a GAA ground between the years of 2000 and 2008.

McDonnell, a former member of the Defence Forces and a Sinn Féin councillor for Co Longford, also faced charges of production, possession and distribution of child pornography.

One seven-year-old boy was abused for eight years, sometimes on a daily basis and Mr McDonnell videotaped it. The abuse began when he struck up friendships with four children, one of whom was aged four.

Mr Justice Johnson said the defendant had engaged in "deviant premeditated behaviour" and had groomed the children to abuse them.

"The accused still doesn't have any empathy for his victims but each of them deserve enormous credit for going to gardaí," Mr Justice Johnson said. "Mr McDonnell led them to believe that he was someone they could trust; he groomed them and breached that trust.

"The abuse took place over a period of eight or nine years and there was habitual and predatory abuse on one child in particular," he added.

The judge said that in one victim impact statement, one victim said that the accused had taken away their childhood.

"The doctor also stated in his report that the child was tortured by what had happened," Mr Justice Johnson said. "The effect of the abuse on all the victims has been profound and life-changing."

McDonnell's wife had no idea of his offending, the judge said, and she and their daughter are suffering from "hurt, isolation and embarrassment", the judge said.

During the hearing, Des Dockery SC, for the accused, said his client had co-operated with gardaí, had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and had no convictions prior to the matter before the court.

Mr Dockery also read a letter written by Mr McDonnell in which he apologised to the four children. "It is a terrible cross I have given you all to deal with throughout your lives," said the accused in his letter. "I am very sorry."

Mr Justice Johnson said it was clear that the accused had "no victim empathy" and "didn't give a second thought to the devastating consequences".

"Indeed it would appear from the probation report that the accused still doesn't have any empathy for his victims and the only decent thing that he has done is to plead guilty and co-operate with gardaí in the investigation of the offences," he said. McDonnell was placed on the sex offenders register and the final four years of his sentence were suspended.

Irish Independent

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