Sunday, July 30, 2023

Spiritans face more than 30 legal cases over past alleged child abuse


The Spiritans are facing more than 30 civil cases filed in the High Court over past alleged child sexual abuse in schools run by the religious congregation, which could result in settlement costs running into the millions.

Revelations of child abuse in the Spiritan-run Blackrock College and its junior school Willow Park last November led to a wave of disclosures from other survivors of historical abuse in many fee-paying boarding schools.

In the wake of the scandal the Government commissioned a scoping inquiry earlier this year into the past abuse in day and boarding schools run by religious orders.

The controversy has seen a marked spike in civil cases for compensation being taken in the High Court by alleged abuse survivors, against the Spiritans - also known as the Holy Ghost Fathers - and other religious orders who ran boarding schools.

Court records show 33 legal cases are currently being taken against the Spiritans, the majority of which were filed this year, with a smaller number lodged at the end of last year.

In addition to Blackrock College and Willow Park, where much of the abuse occurred, the Spiritans also run St Michael’s College, St Mary’s College and Templeogue College in Dublin, as well as Rockwell College in Co Tipperary.

Settlements in alleged child sex abuse cases can often run up to six figure sums, while associated legal fees are also costly.

At the outset of the controversy, the Spiritans disclosed it had previously paid out €5 million in abuse claim settlements since 2004, with 12 of those relating to abuse in Blackrock College.

Some 30 legal cases were filed in recent years against the Carmelites, who run Terenure College in south Dublin and previously the Carmelite College Moate, a Co Westmeath fee-paying school that closed in 1996.

The vast majority of the cases were filed between 2020 and 2023 and related to alleged child abuse by John McClean, the former Terenure College teacher and rugby coach. It is understood settlements have already been paid in a number of the legal cases.

McClean is currently serving a lengthy prison sentence over the sexual abuse of more than 40 boys in the secondary school, following convictions in 2021 and 2023.

The Vincentians, who run Castleknock College and St Paul’s College in Dublin, are facing at least two civil claims related to alleged abuse in St Paul’s in Raheny, north Dublin.

The Jesuits are currently facing one legal case filed in the High Court. However, they have set up a separate redress scheme for former students abused by Fr Joseph Marmion in three of its schools.

Marmion, who died in 2000, is believed to have abused dozens of boys at Belvedere College in Dublin, Clongowes Wood College, Co Kildare and Crescent College, Co Limerick.

Overall, the Jesuits previously said they had paid out €7.4 million between 78 settlements over alleged abuse.

The Franciscan Province of Ireland is facing at least one current civil claim related to Fr Ronald Bennett, who was previously convicted of abusing boys in Gormanston College in Co Meath.

The Christian Brothers have refused to provide a nominee to act on behalf of the congregation, meaning legal papers in historic abuse cases must be sent to all brothers from the time who are still alive.

The legal strategy has been strongly criticised by survivors of historical abuse and their legal representatives as obstructive.