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Sunday 20 January 2019

Disgraced coach now a 'sweet' chap in US

Allison Bray

Allison Bray

FORMER national swimming coach George Gibney is now living in Florida, where he is alleged to have raped a young swimmer in a locked room more than a decade ago.

Gibney's move to a gated apartment complex in Orange City near Orlando has enraged anti-abuse campaigners, who are demanding that he be extradited to Ireland to face prosecution.

The former national and Olympic swimming coach was arrested and charged in April 1993 with raping seven boys and girls, but he escaped prosecution due to a legal technicality.

Evidence

The Director of Public Prosecutions directed that no further prosecution should follow from a second investigation in 1996 after four more young swimmers alleged that he had sexually abused them but cited insufficient evidence.

Gibney fled Ireland for Edinburgh, where it was reported that he was coaching juvenile swimmers, and later emigrated to the US. The 'Sunday Tribune' newspaper hired a private detective last week and traced him to his new $150,000 (?114,000) condominium in Orange City, where a bronze sculpture of two young children kissing adorns the entrance to his front door. He is reportedly working at a nearby hotel in Lake Mary, Florida.

One of his many unsuspecting neighbours - who know him as 'John' - described him as "the nicest, sweetest guy". It is unlikely that a young female swimmer, who continues to undergo intensive medical treatment in Dublin after Gibney allegedly raped her in a locked hotel room in Florida in 1991, would agree with such a glowing description.

Gibney reacted with apparent alarm when a reporter approached him outside his Florida home, and denied he was George Gibney. He then drove off the wrong way on two one-way streets before ignoring a stop sign and cutting off an unmarked police car, according to the 'Tribune'.

Two of Gibney's alleged victims have since filed lawsuits against the Irish Amateur Swimming Association, now known as Swim Ireland, for alleged abuse by Gibney when he was a top coach. Another of his alleged victims has also written to Justice Minister Michael McDowell insisting that Gibney be extradited.

Deirdre Fitzpatrick, advocacy director for the One in Four group fighting child sex abuse, said Gibney's case "reflects the failure of our justice system", and only about three out of every 1,000 child sex abuse claims ends up in a conviction. News of Gibney's peaceful new life will tear open the his alleged victims' wounds, she added.

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