Leaders Question- 3rd March 2015
Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan: The issue I raise is both sensitive and disturbing. Young people have been denied many of their abilities and talents because of the way in which they were abused as children and the scars and the horrors of this are still being felt by them today. They were abused, sexually assaulted and raped by men who were their swimming coaches. These men robbed the young people of their dignity, sense of self, self-esteem and confidence and they deprived them of realising their potential as great swimming champions for their country. Recovery will begin when they can tell their stories, when they are believed, when they have received appropriate counselling for as long as is necessary but most particularly, when the perpetrators are brought to justice. This has happened in a number of cases, the most recent in 2010 when a man was sentenced for sex offences committed between 1981 and the mid-1990s.
However, one notorious abuser has never been brought to justice. His name is known but I will not say it because I do not want to prejudice any case against him. His victims and their loved ones suffer horrifically still. One of them died tragically last Christmas. The man in question fled Ireland and lived in a number of other countries before being facilitated and helped into the US. It is known that he worked with young people in those other countries. I ask in the name of those who were abused, one of whom I knew personally and I have met others, and in the name of those who have supported and believed these young people throughout the years that the Taoiseach in his compassion and humanity has a conversation with the Minister for Justice and Equality with a view to reopening this case and to extraditing this man back to Ireland because that would encourage those who were unable to come forward years ago to tell their story. They might today because we know more about child abuse and paedophilia. This would also affirm and support those who told their stories without this man being brought to justice.
This is urgent because an investigative journalist in the US with the assistance of prominent American politicians is seeking information under freedom of information legislation there on how this man was facilitated to get into the country. This could leave the State and the Government vulnerable when this information comes to light.
The Taoiseach: The Deputy would not raise this matter unless it was serious and sensitive. I do not know the details of the case she speaks of but I would be happy to speak to her and I will ask the Minister for Justice and Equality for a report on this matter.
If what the Deputy says is true, this particularly appalling crime was repeated many times. Obviously, there are legal connections between Ireland and many countries in the pursuit of people whom it is alleged have committed crimes of particular seriousness. I will advise the Deputy discreetly following her raising it in the House.
Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan: I thank the Taoiseach for his response which will be very encouraging for those who have suffered during the years. One of the staunchest supporters has pointed out that this country was able to extradite a celebrity chef to face charges related to theft of paintings, but it has not managed to extradite this man. The Taoiseach was one of many in the House who was very sympathetic and showed such empathy to Maíria Cahill. We were horrified that sex abusers in the North could move freely to another jurisdiction. That has also happened in the case of the man to whom I refer. A litany of mistakes were made in the way this issue was dealt with in the past and in some of the excuses made. I welcome the opportunity to discuss the issue further with the Taoiseach. I know somebody who was abused by this man and I have met some of the others. It is a horror story. Their lives have been marked by suicide attempts, the breakdown of relationships and marriages, self-harm and eating disorders. Some of them committed suicide. The people concerned are still paying the price because this individual was not brought to justice. I hope the day will come when they will see justice.
The Taoiseach: Many adults and teenagers had the courage to speak out where these appalling crimes happened. They have named the perpetrators. Clearly, there are legal complexities involved in the case mentioned by the Deputy. As I said, I will get the Minister for Justice and Equality to advise her of the situation. I thank her for raising the matter.