'You would never have suspected anything about his past' - Locals in shock after GAA club man and 'doting father' is jailed for rape of family of seven children
'For someone to be able to perpetrate that much hurt, to so many children, and over such a long period of time, you would think it would show in them somewhere. But we never knew a thing."
The words of shock and disbelief of one man encompasses the thoughts of an entire rural townland in the north of the country after local man Michael McCarville was this week sentenced to 20 years for the sustained rape and sexual abuse of a family of seven children over an 18-year period.
McCarville (49), who is originally from Co Monaghan, began abusing the first child in 1982 when the victim was aged 10 and he was just 15 and had begun working as a labourer on a family farm.
The sisters and brothers he preyed on were aged as young as seven and 10 when the abuse began. The attacks took place in farm sheds, outhouses and fields.
McCarville, with an address in Longfield, Lisboduff, Cootehill, Co Cavan, was charged with 187 counts of indecent assault and sexual assault of the children between 1982 and 1999. He pleaded guilty last December to 52 sample charges.
The victim impact statements from the boys and girls abused by him are painted with painful, terrified and lonely words. The paper they are written on may as well be calendar pages because they span days, weeks, months, and years.
McCarville's first victim was attacked up to three times a week at various locations, including within the family home.
In 1983, McCarville also began orally raping the boy's seven-year-old sister. He continued to rape her for five years. At the same time, McCarville was anally raping a third brother, who was aged between 10 and 12.
Six of the victims were subjected to sustained and regular assaults, including rapes taking place regularly on a monthly and weekly basis. A seventh sibling was sexually assaulted twice from the age of seven.
The eldest child, now aged 45, said McCarville was a "master manipulator" who split the children apart in order to control them and get what he wanted.
He described his utter shock and horror when he learned over the last two years that his four brothers and two sisters had been abused too.
"I was overpowered by an evil and disgusting man who spent his life manipulating me," he said. He later added he felt that "it's a miracle that we have all survived".
Many of the victims described how the sustained and regular abuse destroyed their childhood and has blighted their adulthood.
Some of the victims described struggling with alcohol abuse in their adult lives and many said they still suffered from flashbacks, depression, anxiety and fear.
The quiet and hard-working people in the townland where McCarville lived for more than 15 years, only found out around 18 months ago that he was suspected of an abuse crime.
"That was enough of a shock, but the extent of what he did only became known in court this week and it is sickening. We don't know what to think," said one concerned local woman.
McCarville was someone they relied upon and trusted in their community. And this is what makes his crimes so hard to process.
The village where he lived with his wife and children is a small one where, like most rural communities, people are close, they trust each other and they look out for one another. Nothing too out-of-the-ordinary happens.
McCarville had married into the community after meeting a young lady from a very well-respected family.
His wife and her family would help in the church, volunteer at local fundraisers, and were active in the parish.
"They weren't pushy about it like some people can be. They are quiet people who are involved in their local area and help out where they can," said the local woman.
McCarville became involved in the local community too, and as their family of three children got involved in local activities, he too put his shoulder to the wheel.
"You could rely on Michael. You could trust him to get things done. He's a big man, around 6ft 3ins and built accordingly, and he was great for getting pitches ready and things," said a local GAA supporter.
"He wouldn't be coaching kids or anything, but he would be helping in the running of the club and the set-ups," he added.
Some 18 months ago though, something happened which took everyone by surprise. McCarville disappeared from the community and local people were left to wonder the cause.
"People were curious as to what happened I suppose, and then the word spread that he was arrested for some sort of sexual abuse. People were absolutely shocked, the GAA club took him off committees at once, and he moved away and rented somewhere, and faded out of the community," the local woman explained.
"It was difficult to believe. You would never have suspected anything about his past."
People could not believe that a man who seemed so 'normal' could have such a history.
"It's horrific. You think you know somebody, and then this comes out. There are no words to describe it," the local woman said.
"I'm no expert, but I thought if there was such a thing as a classic paedophile, it would be someone who has continued and ongoing potential to abuse, but it seems here that when McCarville settled down with his wife and started rearing children of his own, it was all in the past," said another local.
A subsequent intervention by the child protection agency Tusla has raised no concerns regarding his own children.
"It's just hard to fathom how a person could have such a past and that it wouldn't show in some way.
"It just seems incredible how he could function so normally and have such a secret," the local added.
McCarville would also do odd jobs for people and had a bit of a side business going on, cutting people's lawns in the summertime.
A combination of factors have left his community stunned.
The area is small, everyone knows each other, McCarville did not hide away or seem to have anything to hide, and when he was found out, the extent of his crimes was shocking.
"Ultimately, there are victims everywhere. Firstly, there are the people he abused, but there is also his wife and her wider family, and his children who have to grow up knowing what his past is, and indeed his own wider family. A trail of victims from one man's actions," said one man.
The main focus now is on caring for and protecting McCarville's wife and children, and her parents, who are all very well respected members of the community.
People in the community are understandably cautious in explaining their thoughts and views.
But one man summed up how the parish feel about McCarville's wife and family.
"They are all innocent, and we all need to reinforce our support for them. If we are so shocked by his actions we can only imagine how difficult it is for them."