Wednesday 17 January 2018

Latest in line of abuse scandals that have rocked Irish sport

Edel O'Connell

THE jailing of convicted child sex abuser Gerard Doyle is the latest in a litany of scandals which have rocked the world of Irish swimming.

The Murphy Report, which was released in 1998 after a detailed investigation into allegations of child abuse against former national swimming coaches, staggered the public by detailing the biggest scandal ever to emerge in Irish sport.

It detailed a litany of abuse of children by a number of trusted national and Olympic swimming coaches -- abuse which dated back to the 1960s.

George Gibney, the most successful swimming coach ever in Ireland and former national coach to the Irish Olympic team, who faced allegations that he abused young swimmers from 1966 to 1982, won a judicial review in the High Court in 1994, stopping a prosecution.

The decision was never appealed by the State.

To the Irish public, Gibney was 'Mr Swimming', a tireless campaigner for better facilities. However, a number of his former pupils painted a very different picture of the coach.

His close friend and fellow coach was Derry O'Rourke, the coach who once had Olympian Michelle Smith de Bruin under his wing.

Supported by Gibney, who resigned after rumours began to circulate about him, O'Rourke became national coach, bringing the Irish squad to the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.

A third friend and mentor of the pair, was convicted murderer Frank McCann -- former president of the Leinster Branch of the Irish Amateur Swimming Association.

In 1991, his home in the southside Dublin suburb of Rathfarnham was burned to the ground. His wife and baby niece died after "a raging inferno" engulfed their home in the early hours of the morning.


The garda investigation quickly ascertained McCann was the arsonist and, in 1993, he was charged and convicted of murder. He is still in prison.

It later emerged that McCann had fathered a child with a 17-year-old swimmer and that, even at the time of the murder, he was sexually involved with another young swimmer.

O'Rourke was arrested and charged at Kilmainham District Court on 90 counts of unlawful carnal knowledge, indecent assault and sexual assault in 1995. He served a 12-year prison sentence and was subsequently released.

In 2010, he was handed a suspended jail sentence for an indecent assault he carried out in the 1970s. He was last known to be living in Bailieborough, Co Cavan. Married with six children, he was known to have a reputation for religious devotion since the gardai first began to investigate him.

Frank McCann and George Gibney were both arrested in 1993, but Gibney was to prove to be the luckiest of the three.

He went to the High Court and won an order prohibiting the DPP from going ahead with the prosecution on the grounds that the charges against him were unspecific in nature and too old to properly defend.

Gibney left the country in 1993. Despite the allegations, he managed to get a job as a swimming coach in Scotland, working with youngsters. He was last known to be living in Denver, Colorado.

Irish Independent

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