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School apology as former rugby coach admits to decades of abuse


John McClean had been due to stand trial. Photo: Collins Courts

John McClean had been due to stand trial. Photo: Collins Courts

John McClean had been due to stand trial. Photo: Collins Courts

The private school where a former rugby coach sexually abused 23 schoolboys has apologised unreservedly to the victims and abuse survivors for failing them.

John McClean, who also served as UCD's director of rugby, had been due to stand trial at the Dublin Circuit Court yesterday.

However, he instead pleaded guilty to 27 counts of indecent assault at Terenure College.

The 75-year-old had worked at the south Dublin school as an English and drama teacher, while also coaching various underage rugby teams, when he carried out the abuse between 1973 and 1990.


He began teaching at Terenure College, run by the Carmelite order, in the late 1960s.

The sexual abuse and grooming began soon after, and he used his position in the school to prey on the boys he was entrusted to educate and coach.

Students in the school at the time say there were whispers about him, and would make efforts to avoid him.

Despite carrying out the abuse over the course of 27 years, he had managed to build up a reputation as a respected rugby coach.

It resulted in him eventually being put in charge of the Leinster Schools Teams in the 1990s, where he first came across a teenage Brian O'Driscoll, Ireland's most capped player.

O'Driscoll would later credit John McClean with first playing him in the centre position and helping to excel his career.

In 1997 McClean moved to UCD where he was made Director of Rugby.

It was a prestigious position he held for 14 years before eventually retiring from the role in 2011 when he was given an award by the university.

Complaints had been made against him to gardaí over the allegations of abuse, but the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) directed not to bring charges.

However, by 2016, further victims came forward to detectives at Terenure garda station, detailing the sexual abuse McClean had subjected them to.

In late 2018, a total of nine individual complainants went to gardaí and described the abuse. More files were sent to the DPP and a decision was made to bring charges

On November 14, 2018, detectives arrested him at his Harold's Cross home and brought him before a sitting of Dublin District Court where he was formally charged.

Following his initial court appearance, a further 14 victims came forward outlining to gardaí what they had suffered between 1973 and 1990, and more charges were brought.

Judge Pauline Codd remanded McClean on continuing bail and set a sentence date of March 9, 2021, when all evidence will be heard over a two day sentence hearing.

Paul Murray SC, prosecuting, said a number of the complainants were present in court to hear McClean enter the guilty pleas, while others watched the proceedings over a Zoom call.


Mr Murray said some of the 23 complainants may wish to read out their victim impact statements during the hearing and told Judge Codd those statements should be ready for the court by Christmas.

After details of the guilty plea emerged, Terenure College issued an apology to victims.

The school said it was "sincerely sorry for the breach of trust and for the pain and suffering those affected by the abuse endured", while acknowledging that "no apology can ever be sufficient".

"The criminal acts of abuse by John McClean, a former teacher, meant innocent children were profoundly harmed.

"As School Management and Carmelites, we acknowledge and deeply regret that we failed these children entrusted to our care."