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Former Terenure College rugby coach admitted sexual abuse to senior priest in the school 25 years ago, court hears


John McClean

John McClean

John McClean

A former rugby coach who indecently assaulted 23 boys at Terenure College admitted the sexual abuse to a senior priest in the school 25 years ago, a court has heard.

John McClean (76) is being sentenced in relation to 27 counts of indecent assault of the schoolboys, aged between 11 and 17, at Terenure College from 1973 to 1990.

At the time McClean worked at the Carmelite Order-run school and was an English teacher while also coaching rugby.

This afternoon the court heard that a father of one of the victims brought his son's abuse allegation to the attention of a senior member of the Carmelite community in 1996 while McClean was still working at the school.

The court heard the then Prior Provincial of the Irish Provence of Carmelites Fr Robert Kelly, who held the role between 1994 and 2000, told the father that the matter should be reported to gardaí. This complaint was made but never prosecuted, Insp Jason Miley said.

Evidence was given that McClean was then spoken to by the school and told he could no longer teach or train rugby there.

The court heard the former teacher took a career break before later coaching rugby at UCD.

Under cross-examination from defence counsel Sean Guerin SC, Insp Miley agreed that Fr Kelly had taken notes at the time in which it stated that he discussed the alleged abuse with John McClean. The notes said that McClean admitted the abuse, the court heard.

The court also heard that Fr Kelly told gardaí he had no specific memory of this encounter but accepted that if it was recorded in the notes then it is true.

John McClean was first interviewed about the complaints in 2018 and denied all allegations of abuse.

The defence also said they were "under no disillusion" that McClean was going to prison, and that he should be vaccinated before he goes into custody.

Earlier this morning prosecutor Paul Murray SC continued going through the evidence of the complainants and their victim impact statements at Dublin Circuit Court. Evidence was given of 15 victims yesterday with a further eight heard today.

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One man described McClean as a "grotesque and manipulative" man who was hiding behind a mask of respectability, while another said he feared there were more victims than the 23 complainants.

Another suggested in a statement to the court that the parents of the victims should be refunded their school fees in full.

Throughout much of the proceedings, John McClean, of Casimir Avenue, Harold's Cross, sat either with his right hand covering his face, or looking at the ground as the evidence of the abuse he carried out was heard. He was employed at the school between 1966 and 1996 before moving on to coach rugby at UCD.

The former teacher has pleaded guilty to 27 charges while the other counts are being taken into consideration.

This morning the court heard how one boy was aged 11 when he was molested by McClean, who he called 'The Doc', in a changing room in the early 1980s.

In his victim impact statement, he questioned how a respected and educated pillar of the community "could make such an error of judgement" and do such a thing.

Another boy was 12 when he was indecently assaulted by McClean in his office around 1983.

The schoolboy had been caught smoking and was terrified of the first-year headmaster telling his parents, the court heard.

At one point McClean said to the child "what would Christmas be like for your family if your parents found out about this" before molesting him.

In his statement, the victim, addressing Terenure College, said "this 23 is a big part of your culture".

He added: "Are we the tip of the iceberg? I fear so. If one teacher got through this many cases, you can only wonder" how many weren't uncovered.

The man said gardaí in the case were "top notch" and that he found it hard to believe that he was worthy of their protection.

He said he also wondered how many “tried out for this final squad of 23”.

Evidence was then given of another boy who was abused from the age of 12 over a three-year period in the mid 1980s.

He said that McClean began talking to him about his personal life and befriending him before this escalated to sexual abuse.

After the assaults he said that the former teacher "would talk to me as if he was my friend".

He recalled seeing a court picture of McClean in the Irish Independent in 2018 and said he had a "shudder to the body”.

"The evil stare (in the picture) was the same he used to intimidate you as a child," he said.

Another 12-year-old boy, abused on one occasion during the 1980s in his office, said he struggled to come to terms with how "grotesque and manipulative" John McClean was behind the "mask of respectability and cloak of authority". He also described him as a "monster in disguise" who is a "depraved, calculating and ill man".

The victim said the abuse was made more difficult because McClean was involved in the sporting careers of his relatives and would therefore be in his house in later years.

The man also said that the parents of his victims should have their school fees refunded to them in full.

Another boy (12) was sexually abused around 1974 by McClean, who was his English teacher.

He said he considered going to confession over what had happened and that he wasn't aware of what sexual abuse or paedophiles were at the time.

Evidence was then heard of a 12-year-old boy abused in the mid 1970s during a costume fitting in the changing room of the concert hall.

The child was wearing a dress for a school play and McClean told him to take his underwear off.

He then abused the boy.

"I remember every detail of that incident," he said, adding that he would be safe in the knowledge of McClean spending the rest of his days in prison.

The now 58-year-old man also said that "everyone in that school, despite their constant nods, knew McClean was an active paedophile".

Another schoolboy was 16 when he was abused by McClean during a costume fitting in the late 1970s.

He said that he was the English teacher's "pet" and was picked for a big role in a school play, only realising later that he was being groomed.

The victim said that McClean took him to the dressing room of the concert hall and rubbed against him while fitting his costume.

He said he later returned to class feeling "dirty and ashamed".

The man added that there were wonderful teachers in Terenure College at the time but that some chose to look the other way. "Shame on them," he added.

The final victim was abused twice by McClean in the mid 1980s as a 13-year-old, and again in 1990.

During the first incident, he was taken to his office where the teacher gave him the choice of being suspended, or being punished the way his parents would do it.

The victim thought he would get a punch, but McClean proceeded to hit him with a ruler on his bottom and molested him.

"He was a big man and I was small and skinny," he said.

The man said McClean offering him the choice of punishment felt like he was consenting to what happened, when he wasn't.

On another occasion, around the time Terenure College got to a school cup final in 1990, the coach "reversed" into the boy and touched him inappropriately.

The victim also said that he told a teacher in third year: "You have to speak to John McClean".

He said he walked away expecting to be called back and offer an explanation for the comment, but he wasn't.

The sentencing hearing continues before Judge Pauline Codd this afternoon.

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