‘It never leaves you’ – 14 men come forward with sexual abuse allegations against former teacher in Waterford city

Waterpark College in Waterford

Amy Molloy

A total of 14 men have come forward to allege sexual abuse at the hands of a former teacher at a school in Waterford city.

The allegations were made by past pupils of Waterpark College, who claim they were sexually and physically abused by a man who worked at the school across three decades.

Tom Meehan, who died in 2019, and who was never prosecuted, taught geography, was a career guidance counsellor and vice-principal during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

The details of the allegations were aired as part of an investigation by WLR FM presenter Damien Tiernan on his show Déise Today.

He spoke to a number of alleged victims about their experience of abuse, with one former student revealing that he attempted to take his own life due to the trauma he suffered.

Lee Deady, who subsequently took a civil case against Waterpark College and received a settlement of €60,000, alleges that the abuse started when he was in second year, and continued up until his final year of school.

He said he stopped going to PE lessons “for fear of him arriving down to the showers”.

“It [the abuse] could have been once a fortnight. It depended when he bumped into you. There was no way of escaping him. One time I had to strip off my pants in front of him. He locked the door and came over with dirty questions. He started rubbing the inside of my leg.”

WRL said the details of what happened to him were too graphic to publish.

“You can go to any amount of counselling, which I have, but it never leaves you,” he said.

Very adverse effects on his psychological, emotional and mental wellbeing

Meehan was the subject of a number of garda investigations.

In a statement to WRL, the Garda Press Office said: “Waterford gardaí received a number of complaints about alleged abuse by an individual between 2009 and 2011. A further complaint was received in 2019. All the complaints were investigated and a number of files were forwarded to the DPP. The DPP returned with a direction of no prosecution in all cases. An Garda Síochána does not comment on correspondence with the DPP.”

Another civil case was brought against the former teacher and a judgment was published in relation to the case last year.

The plaintiff sought damages arising out of acts of alleged sexual abuse between 1993 and 1998. He alleged the abuse happened on the school grounds, in private and during the school day.

However, the proceedings were dismissed as Mr Justice Cian Ferriter ruled that the plaintiff’s delay in prosecuting the proceedings was inordinate.

He found that the plaintiff provided sufficient evidence as to the reason for not having issued proceedings before January 2012 due to the “very adverse effects on his psychological, emotional and mental wellbeing, suffered as a result of the abuse he claimed was perpetrated on him”, which was “amply supported by the medical evidence tendered on his behalf”. But the plaintiff “could not excuse the delay of some three and a half years in failing to prosecute his proceedings in the period March 2014 to November 2017”.

“In my view, it would not be fair or appropriate to leave to trial the issue of the prejudice resulting from the unavailability through death of the late Mr Meehan, the sole alleged perpetrator, and the balance of justice in my view accordingly favours dismissal of the proceedings at this juncture,” Mr Justice Ferriter said.

“It is important when considering fair trial rights to also weigh in the scales of justice the right of a defendant, who maintains his innocence of allegations made against him, to a fair trial which will yield a fair result. Unfortunately, and through absolutely no fault of the plaintiff, the death of the late Mr Meehan means that, objectively, there is a real risk that a fair trial would not occur in this case,” he concluded.

The plaintiff later reached an out-of-court settlement for an undisclosed figure in January 2023.

Waterpark College was founded by the Christian Brothers in 1892. It now operates under the trusteeship of the Edmund Rice Schools Trust.

In a statement, Waterpark College said: "We cannot comment on any individual cases as it may prejudice due process. However, we would encourage anybody who has concerns to report them to the relevant authorities."

In a statement to WLR, the Edmund Rice Schools Trust said it condemns any form of child abuse and is committed to the best standards of child protection.