Thomas Caulfield (77) was sentenced to 27 months in prison after pleading guilty to indecent assault against Paul Grealish in a Galway school in the 1970s
A well-known Galway businessman who was “systematically” sexually abused and humiliated in front of his class as a schoolboy by a Christian Brother teacher said he locked away the painful memories for decades in order to survive, after his abuser was jailed for more than two years yesterday.
Paul Grealish settled a civil legal action against the order in 2009, but received no apology or admission of liability. He made a formal complaint to gardaí after hearing his abuser had tried to rejoin the teaching register, which eventually led to his conviction last December.
Mr Grealish has waived his anonymity as he demands to know why the Christian Brothers allowed his abuse to happen.
Galway publican Mr Grealish, now 60, said that even though the abuse began more than 50 years ago when he was nine, it 1995 before he was able to disclose the abuse for the first time, when he told his wife.
“I tried to repress the memories,” he told RTÉ One’s Prime Time programme after his abuser, Thomas Caulfield (77), was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Tuesday.
Caulfield pleaded guilty to three sample charges of indecent assault against Mr Grealish at St Patrick’s CBS National School in Tuam, Co Galway, between September 1972 and May 1973.
The former Christian Brother, of Castlerea, Co Roscommon, had the final seven months of his sentence suspended due to his guilty plea and ill health after he was convicted of the offences at Galway Circuit Court last December.
He had been due to face trial on 10 separate charges of indecent assault against Mr Grealish the previous month but pleaded guilty on the day a jury was empanelled.
Judge Brian O'Callaghan commended Mr Grealish for his courage in bringing the abuse to light.
However, Mr Grealish said the fact the case took so long to come to trial after Caulfield was charged with the offences in 2013, was “a blessing in disguise” because “I would have been less able to cope with it,” at the time.
He said the campaign of abuse by his former teacher, whom he described as a “tyrant” who subjected all of his students to outbursts of violence, including beating them with leather straps, had left him full of shame.
“I felt complicit in it,” he told Prime Time.
“It damaged my education. I emerged into the world very confused,” he said.
He said the memories were so painful that he tried to lock them away in his mind for years, until an encounter with a former classmate in 1984 – who brought up what Caulfield had done to him – brought them back, resulting in him becoming depressed and abusing alcohol to drown them out.
In a harrowing impact statement, he made at Caulfield’s sentencing hearing, Mr Grealish, who owns the Kings Head pub in Galway city, said before the abuse started he was a happy-go-lucky boy who loved playing soccer, watching cowboy movies and playing with this friends.
“I was nine years of age and a happy child in Tuam when my fourth class teacher, Brother Thomas Caulfield, first sexually abused me,” Mr Grealish said.
“The abuse continued throughout that school year and took place in the classroom, during class, and in front of my classmates.
“The abuse has left me and my family irreparably scarred. I am here today to recount the impact of that abuse; to place the blame, the guilt, and all of the shame of that systematic sexual abuse back where it truly belongs with Thomas Caulfield but especially to finally claim justice for my nine- and 10-year-old self.
“I have waited 50 years for this day.”
He added he waived his anonymity to not only identify his abuser but to “give hope and encouragement to others who have suffered similar abuse to seek support from family and friends – and the justice system – as I have done.”
“Furthermore, having carried the abuse like a dark secret for 50 years, I feel it is finally time to share the load.”
Following Tuesday’s sentencing, Mr Grealish said he is still processing everything that happened but described the custodial sentence as “a great result”.
“Today I was in court to get justice for my 10-year-old self and I think we got that today,” he said.
Mr Grealish said he initially took a civil action against the Christian Brothers in 2009 and the order settled the action out of court but refused to apologise and left Mr Grealish feeling under “threat” to settle.
“What I wanted were an apology and accountability, but what I got was a cheque,” he said.
“I have also waived my anonymity to enable me to call on the Christian Brothers to publicly explain why they allowed this to happen to a nine- and a 10-year-old boy, why they denied all liability and why they allowed their legal team to behave disgracefully and re-traumatise me in 2009 and subsequently.”
The court heard that despite settling the civil action in 2009, Caulfield attempted to rejoin the teaching register several years later. But when attempting to vet him, the HSE found a note relating to the civil action and contacted Mr Grealish, who in turn made a formal complaint to gardaí in 2013.
The court heard the abuse began at the beginning of the school year when Caulfield would place his hand down Mr Grealish’s trousers under the guise of correcting his homework.
The abuse took place in front of other pupils and could last for up to 10 minutes.
Mr Grealish said during the abuse, which he estimated happened on around 20 occasions, he would zone out and stare at the floor, as his childhood brain could not process the trauma.