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Half a century of abuse covered up


Domhnall O Lubhlai

Domhnall O Lubhlai

Domhnall O Lubhlai

In December 1972 Domhnall O Lubhlai shared a platform with Provisional IRA figures Daithi O Conaill and Sean Keenan , head of the IRA in Derry, to launch what was to have been a southern extension of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA).

The "Irish Civil Rights Association" (ICRA) launch also attracted a collection of radical and republican figures from Dublin's theatrical and literary world. The southern-based ICRA was to be used as a vehicle by the Provisionals to recruit and foment dissent in the Republic. It was watched closely by gardai but failed to evolve into a significant movement.

O Lubhlai had been arrested in relation to IRA activities during the "Border Campaign" between 1958 and 1962. He also attended Sinn Fein conferences in the early 1970s. However, beyond the early 1970s, he did not appear on the gardai's radar as anything other than a figure determined to promote himself and his life as a Gaeilgeoir with republican leanings. He was stridently anti-British.

Suspicions have been aired that O Lubhlai's activities as a paedophile might have been covered up because he was a garda informant. This may have been prompted by the fact that he lived close to a senior IRA technician, Peter Maguire, in Clondalkin, who was arrested while trying to acquire surface-to-air missiles in the US in a high profile case in 1990, and was later sentenced to six years' imprisonment in the US.

But this may simply have been coincidence. Maguire, an electronics engineer who worked for Aer Lingus, was one of the IRA's deep undercover operatives and had little or no contact with other IRA members other than a number of senior figures.

Allegations of sexual abuse against O Lubhlai did come to the gardai's attention in 1990 when he reported an attempt was being made to blackmail him by one of his former pupils. It is understood that O Lubhlai co-operated in an apparent "sting" operation and met the young man at the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire to secretly tape their conversation. Nothing further is known to have arisen from this episode. No charges were brought.

During the subsequent investigation in 1998, when charges were finally brought against O Lubhlai, it emerged in court that the tape and transcript from the hotel in Dun Laoghaire could not be found.

In the 1998 investigation, gardai from the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit investigated complaints by six former pupils that they had been raped by O Lubhlai at different locations around the country.

The case against O Lubhlai collapsed after he sought and succeeded in a judicial review to have the case stopped because of the length of time that had elapsed in respect of some of the complaints. One complaint alleged a sexual assault as early as 1955.

There is no suspicion that any garda who dealt directly with O Lubhlai was in any way involved in any cover-up.

The decision to drop the case was, effectively, out of the gardai's hands. The judicial review challenge on grounds of passage of time is one that has been used by several other alleged paedophiles, including clerics, gardai pointed out last week.

With O Lubhlai's case re-opened in the wake of the TG4 programme, the new investigation will have to examine how he was able to remain at large for such a length of time while being regularly in the public eye.

Like the Jimmy Savile investigation in Britain, it will have to consider the possibility that O Lubhlai was part of a paedophile ring reaching into the Irish language movement, government and even the Garda Siochana itself.

Garda sources said last week there were suspicions that there were a number of paedophiles in the force in the 1970s and beyond. Two gardai in the Phoenix Park headquarters were suspected by colleagues of being paedophiles after incidents came to the attention of other gardai in the 1980s and early 1990s. One came to light after a young man claimed a senior officer had sex with him when he was just 14. No action was taken.

O Lubhlai, who died last month aged 84, appears to have devoted his life to the pursuit of boys in their early teens and constructing a career and persona to facilitate and cover his involvement with them.

To this end he founded Colaiste na bhFiann, in Rosmuc, Connemara, in the 1960s, which he built into the largest Irish language summer school in the country. He headed the federation of Irish summer schools, Comhdhail Naisiunta na Gaeilge, into the late 1980s until word of his abuse spread.

He came to public prominence in the mid-1970s spearheading the campaign to have all official government documents printed in Irish as well as English. He deliberately set out to acquire as many parking tickets as he could then refused to pay because the tickets were not in Irish as well as English. "The Lovely Saga", as it became known (O Lubhlai was also known as Danny Lovely), was raised in the Dail.

O Lubhlai was also a regular on RTE's Irish language programme Trom agus Eadrom and was often in the public eye on Irish language-related issues. In the 1980s, at a time when his Connemara Gaelscoil was receiving substantial funding from the Department of Education, he travelled around the country promoting his text-book for teachers on teaching Irish.

The abuse cases investigated by gardai in 1998 took place in different locations against six individuals who were all in their early teens when O Lubhlai raped them. The crimes took place in Donegal, Athlone, Connemara and Dublin. None of the victims was a pupil at Colaiste Chilliain in Clondalkin where O Lubhlai was a teacher for three decades. It is a known pattern of predatory paedophiles that they avoid abusing on their own doorsteps.

O Lubhlai was married but his wife, who is also dead, left him and denounced him when she discovered he was a child rapist during the 1998 investigation. The couple had one adopted son.

Dubbed the "Irish Jimmy Savile", O Lubhlai died while under re-investigation after more victims came forward. It is likely that, like Savile, he abused hundreds of victims over half a century. He lived his last years alone in an apartment in Mullingar. Despite the investigations and his exposure as a paedophile rapist, he continued to tour Irish-speaking schools up to two years ago, promoting his text book on teaching Irish.

Following the TG4 programme shown after his death the Justice Minister and Garda Commissioner confirmed last week that the handling of the previous investigations into the complaints made against him – and the disappearance of the 1990 tape and transcript – will be reviewed.

Irish Independent