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Cleric was respected by majority in parish

FR Denis Nolan was highly respected in his own community of Rathnew, Co Wicklow, and many refused to believe the truth.

The priest was always available at a minute's notice and took particular care for the sick, elderly and young in his parish.

Because of this the community was reeling from allegations that Fr Nolan abused his position of power in the most heinous way – by abusing a child on almost a daily basis.

John Paul Hunter was the individual who made the brave move to report the abuse to gardai.

And he took an even more courageous step by waiving his right to anonymity in the hope that he can prevent other children going through the same torture.

The abuse happened almost every day.

It happened in the priest's car, in his home, in the presbytery, in the church itself – by day and night.

Yesterday John Paul's family stood side by side at Bray Court in room number one yesterday as Fr Nolan faced his sentence.

It was a conclusion to a nightmare that mother, sons and daughters in the family had all lived through.

They had faced months of accusations and felt the town's anger as many in the town found it difficult to accept that their priest would do such a thing.

As gardai tried to piece together the actions of the priest, doors were slammed and mouths remained shut.

Inside the interview room of Wicklow Garda Station, Det Sgt O'Brien and Det Gda Larkin were preparing for one thing only: a denial.

But to everyone's surprise, Denis Nolan owned up and yesterday he was handed his custodial sentence.