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Six could face charges after school paedophile ring probe

UP to six men could face charges as a result of an investigation into an alleged paedophile ring linked to a school scandal, the Irish Independent has learned.

The inquiry was ordered last year by Justice Minister Alan Shatter after this newspaper revealed that Donegal man Michael Ferry was given his job back as a caretaker at an Irish language school despite a previous conviction for child sex abuse.

Ferry (57) was jailed last July for 14 years after pleading guilty to 38 sample charges of rape and molestation between 1990 and 2005. Although those charges only related to four victims, gardai fear Ferry may have abused dozens of boys and other paedophiles were involved.

He committed so many offences, he told investigating gardai that he "couldn't remember" some of his victims.

Many of the attacks took place after Ferry's conviction on similar charges in 2002 for which he received a suspended prison sentence.

The victims were repeatedly attacked at Ard Scoil Mhuire, run by the Colaiste Cholmcille organisation in Derrybeg, Gweedore, where Ferry wasn't on the staff but was paid as an 'odd jobs' man.

He often slept in a room at the school which has since been closed down.

Mr Shatter ordered an inquiry into allegations that up to six other men in the same Gaeltacht area abused children there.

The HSE launched a separate investigation into how Ferry was allowed to be in the company of children despite repeated warnings from gardai.

Ferry was exposed only because one brave victim, Derek Mulligan, waived his right to anonymity so that his abuser could be named.

"It wasn't just him (Ferry). There were other people doing this too," said Mr Mulligan, now 25.

New allegations were made to the Irish Independent about three other men who are alleged to have abused children in the area at the same time as Ferry preyed on his victims. Two of them have close links to Ferry, who has been re-interviewed by gardai.

Concerns

Files on the alleged members of the paedophile ring are now being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

A spokesman for Mr Shatter confirmed that the minister has received an interim report from the Garda Commissioner on the case.

It is understood that official records show that local gardai had raised concerns about Ferry's presence at the Derrybeg college and another run by the same organisation in Dunlewey after the 2002 conviction.

A spokesman for Mr Shatter told the Irish Independent: "The position is that the minister received an interim report about this matter from the Garda Commissioner. This indicated that the gardai were carrying out an investigation into certain matters which arose.

"This investigation is at an advanced stage."

Meanwhile, the HSE has also completed its investigation into how the North Western Health Board handled the case between Ferry's first conviction in 2002 when he was placed on the Sex Offenders' Register and his continued work at the school until 2011.

However, it may not be published until after the DPP takes a decision on the allegations about the alleged paedophile ring.

Irish Independent