Saturday 15 December 2018

'I should have named my abuser to help victims'

Regret: Damien O’Farrell. Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Regret: Damien O’Farrell. Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

A survivor of clerical sex abuse has revealed how the Tom Humphries paedophilia case made him regret not naming his abuser.

Dublin City Councillor Damien O'Farrell, who was one of the first victims of sex abuse to take a case against the Christian Brothers, decided not to name or seek a prison sentence for his attacker

During the trial of his abuser in the late 1990s, Damien asked the judge to show his attacker leniency and not publicly name or imprison him - despite the abuse he subjected him to when he was a 12-year-old boy.

The councillor, who is also Disability Minister Finian McGrath's special adviser, now says he believes the former Christian Brother should have been named, so other victims would know they were not alone.

The coverage of the Humphries case brought back memories of the torture he endured at the hands of his abuser at a Dublin primary school.

"Humphries almost got a eulogy in The Irish Times," Damien said in reference to a controversial piece about the disgraced sports writer on the newspaper's website, published moments after he was sentenced.

"It was disgraceful. People need to think of the victims, but I probably let down victims during my time in court," he added.

Damien was in his 30s and married with children by the time his case went to trial in 1997. His abuser, who pleaded guilty, had left the church and was also married with young children.

Damien said his abuser still had a "power" over him at this point in his life and asked the judge not to hand down a custodial sentence because he was father.

So strong was his hold over Damien that the councillor hid when he saw the man walking down his street around the time of trial.

This was completely out of character for Damien, who a few weeks earlier had chased burglars from a friend's home.

"I was a grown man, hiding in a bush, it was terrible," he said.

The abuser was given a suspended sentence and a fine for sexually abusing Damien - but never apologised for the life-altering trauma he subjected him to as a 12-year-old child.

"I wasn't thinking much about myself. I was thinking about him and not because I'm a great person but because of the power they have over you.

"They want you to feel pity for them - it's the same with Humphries," he said.

"I'm sorry I stood up for him in court. These people are manipulators.

"The fact is there are loads of Tom Humphries-like characters out there. They are in families, they are in clubs. I didn't do my bit at the time and I still feel guilty."

Prior to the trial Damien said he told the Christian Brothers his abuser was still working in a local school - but nothing was done for three years.

Damian first met Minister McGrath when he helped him find a second victim of the abuser, which gave gardai enough evidence to seek a prosecution against the former priest.

The case was heard only after a second victim of the same paedophile came forward with similar allegations.

Gardai could no longer ignore the accusations when two victims were making near-identical claims about how the former priest groomed, then assaulted, them when they were in primary school.

Earlier this year Damien learned the abuser was again convicted on child sex abuse charges.

More than two decades after he was first convicted, the abuser was still haunting Damien's life and free to walk the streets.

"He was convicted again this year, in February, and two days after he was convicted I saw him out of the back of the Dail when I was in work. His name wasn't made public," Damien said.

"The victim tried to make his name public this time, but the judge wouldn't let it happen. So he basically took time off work like it was a traffic ticket - and nobody knew anything."

Sunday Independent

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