'Nun spat in my face on the street'

Tormented abuse victim John Prior sits by a stark headstone at Rath Graveyard in Tralee which bears the names of children that attended St Joseph's Industrial School. Credit: Photo by Domnick Walsh/Eye Focus
Tormented abuse victim John Prior sits by a stark headstone at Rath Graveyard in Tralee which bears the names of children that attended St Joseph's Industrial School. Credit: Photo by Domnick Walsh/Eye Focus

SIMON BROUDER sbrouder@kerryman.ie

WHISTLEBLOWER John Prior, whose allegations of abuse in a Tralee industrial school helped lift the lid on a hidden culture of rape and brutality in the Catholic Church, has revealed the torment he suffered for daring to tell the truth.

John Prior, who spent 14 years in St Joseph's Industrial School in Tralee and was the longest serving inmate of any industrial school in the county, was the first victim of institutional abuse to come forward and tell his story to the authorities.

Though his bravery prompted hundreds more to come forward it led to years of misery for John who was vilified for challenging the reputation of the church.

Prior was abused in the street and shunned by friends, he received threatening phonecalls and his children were bullied.

John Prior described the ordeal of facing the Christian Brothers in Court as "four days of hell".

"The government say the commission was non-confrontational but they treated me like a dog in there," he said. "They called me a fraud and said they'd fight me to the very end. They had millions to spend to bring me down. Money was no object because if they beat me they could frighten all the others from coming forward. They fought me and fought me and ripped me to shreds.

"Our only way of dealing with what happened to us is to talk about it and all I wanted was for someone to say they believed me. I was abused on the street, people crossed the road away from me. I had a nun spit into my face and say 'do you realise what you're doing to the church?'" John Prior said.

"The orders should be closed and their assets taken from them," he said. "I want to see these men in court. They're paedophiles and they deserve to face the full rigours of the law."

Referring to Bishop of Kerry Bill Murphy's statement on institutional abuse Mr Prior said.

"That letter isn't worth the paper it's written on. Why couldn't he have just written to us years ago and said sorry. That's all we wanted. What he said is too little, too late."

John Prior has called on the diocese of Kerry to hold a special mass at the gave of children who died at St Joseph's in Tralee's Rath Cemetery.

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