So did Scoil Colmchille employ Ferry knowing he was an offender?

Interesting snippet from the sex abuse case in Donegal on the BBC site

A director of Scoil Colmchoille, the Irish College that operates at Ard Scoil Mhuire, in Derrybeg, said on Tuesday that a formal statement from the school in relation to Michael Ferry would be issued before the weekend. Donal O’Lionsigh told RTE that Ferry had “no employment contract as such”. He also said there were “no little children attended the courses” run over the summer.

That reads like someone was trying to mitigate the likely effects of giving a convicted sex offender a job in a school… It’s no wonder Minister Shatter is appalled

Update: That statement has now been released (h/t Nevin below)…

Update 2: Liam Porter tweets Pearse Doherty’s questions on Highland Radio this morning…








Update 3: In the Independent they are reporting:

He was first convicted in 2002 at Letterkenny District Court of sexually abusing a young boy at the school.

However, although placed on the sex offenders register, he escaped with a non-custodial sentence and a €500 fine. A representative of the school was in court for the hearing.

After returning to work, he continued abusing boys at the school premises.

Earlier this week, he was jailed for 14 years after pleading guilty to 38 sample charges of rape and molestation between 1990 and 2005. Although those charges only related to four victims, gardai fear Ferry may have abused as many as a dozen boys.

A source close to the inquiry said: “We believe there were many more victims who have not yet come forward. We are also investigating allegations relating to four other suspected abusers who are linked to Ferry.

“It appears — from the allegations made so far — a paedophile ring was being operated in this area.

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  • Mick, the story is moving on:

    “Colaiste Cholmchille in Donegal, the school where child sex abuser Michael Ferry had worked as a caretaker, has been asked to withdraw from membership of Irish college umbrella group CONCOS.” .. Indo source

    The Indo article contains additional background material on Ferr.

  • Extract from the Statement by the school:

    1 It has been repeatedly stated that Micheal Ferry continued in his role as caretaker to the building after his conviction for sexual assault in 2002. This is factually incorrect.

    Following his arrest in 2001 and prior to his subsequent conviction he was dismissed from his post as caretaker. This dismissal took place at a formal meeting, attended by two directors of Coláiste Cholmcille.

    He was required to surrender the keys to the building at the meeting which he did. He was never subsequently reemployed as caretaker to the building. Teaching staff at the college were informed of his dismissal and the reasons for same.

    2 Over subsequent years, on occasion, whilst the building was vacant and not in use, Micheal Ferry, on an intermittent basis and always in the company of other building workers, participated in effecting necessary repairs.

    During this period also, he assisted on occasions, in the presence of college staff with some aspects of our adult courses, during which time no junior courses ever operated.

    He was never unaccompanied and he was never provided with keys to the building. With the benefit of hindsight, in the light of the information now available we regret having allowed this.

    3 Routine intermittent security checks of the building during its long periods of unoccupancy did not reveal evidence of unauthorized use.

    However, information emerging from the recent court case states that Micheal Ferry continued to access the building subsequent to his dismissal as caretaker in 2001.

    As already stated this was an unused and unoccupied building for approximately nine months of every year. Apart from the above mentioned periods of authorized accompanied access, any other access of the building by Micheal Ferry was totally unauthorized. ……

    Issued by Seosamh Ó Gallachóir on behalf of Coláiste Cholmcille.

    The whole thing sounds like gross hysteria by the media ably assisted by our respected Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter. The next thing I expect to read is that the people who run the school are physically threatened. If so I trust that Shatter will NOT remain silent!

  • Alias

    If that statement is true, Kilbarry, then I’d like to sack the board for wasting public funds. Who would employ a caretaker on the basis that they had to employ two other people to monitor his movements and think that that practice offered best value for money?

  • “Over subsequent years, on occasion, whilst the building was vacant and not in use, Micheal Ferry, on an intermittent basis and always in the company of other building workers, participated in effecting necessary repairs.” AND
    “During this period also, he assisted on occasions, in the presence of college staff with some aspects of our adult courses, during which time no junior courses ever operated.”

    THe other workers were there as part of their jobs. In any case, the real question is why our Minister for Justice choose to shoot off his mouth without knowing basic facts. He should know – above anybody else – the consequences of smearing people by linking them to sex offences.

  • Mick Fealty

    Derek Mulligan is casting doubt on the veracity of the Directors statements. Specifically he is suggests that Ard Scoil was not unoccupied for those nine months.

    Also, before we pronounce Minister Shatter to be in error, just return for a moment to the question in the title above. Why on earth did anyone think it was acceptable to keep a convicted sex offender anywhere near a school, employed or unemployed?

  • I saw Mr Mulligan on RTE News tonight and found him much more credible than any statement issued by the College.
    “no little children” (sic) in attendance and “no employment contract as such” (sic) seem weasel words.
    But specifically on the last sentence in Mr Fealtys most recent comment, I think it would be almost impossible (in a village scenario” not to live near a school.
    It raises the reasonable question as to whether sex offenders should be barred from their family homes or whether that should only be the case in the most extreme cases which raises the nightmare scenario of “grading” sex offences.
    Just three weeks ago I found myself in the very uncomfortable position of having a cup of tea in a seaside town, just a few tables away from a person who served a long prison sentence.
    What exactly do we do with sex offenders? I ask in seriousness not to invite the normal responses that we all have.
    Clearly a sentence having been served, release is inevitable and it seems to me that the most effective tracking device is the vigilance of locals who actually know the offender.
    Well that “should” be the case and I would think vigilance is more effective in a small community than a large one.
    A few years back we had the case in Strabane/Lifford of a lady murdered. I can only now recall her name as “Attracta” but clearly there was poor management of that case. The offenders relative rural setting should have facilitated monitoring.
    Yet what should happen to a man as evil as Mr Ferry. We cant detain him longer than legal entitlement. We cant simply say he cant live locally near a school (or can we?). We cant limit his employment except where children are directly concerned (or can we?) and we cant want him to live in the urban, anonymous setting of Dublin (or can we?) or monitor him forever (or can we?). Is a sex offender a social leper forever?

    For all of us who are parents its a no-win situation.
    We can pass a “life meaning life law” which can jail or confine people forever but it seems disproportionate to lower scale (and I hate that term) offences . Or is the protection of children so obviously a case for draconian sentencing (Id argue yes).
    While the facts of the particular case are in contention, it is clear that once again monitoring is the problem.
    But so long as we dont address these things at basic level we are condemned……in the North, in the Republic in Britain etc……to failures in monitoring leading to cases as tragic as this one. For there will be another. And another.

  • wee buns

    What an absolute nightmare for his victims. A young hero and survivor on TV3 just described Ferry’s ‘office’ within the school as Freddie Crougar’s use long after hs conviction.

    A young courts correspondant is now explaining the gaps and failings in the law but to be honest, it amounts to an unwatchable disgrace on behalf of the system to protect children.

  • pippakin

    It sounds almost like a throwback to the times when abusers were almost always believed and some even protected. It was not so long ago that a priest went to court to say what a good person a convicted rapist was…

    There is no excuse. FJH may be right that people can’t always choose their neighbours but no way should he have been working at a school under any circumstances.

  • Mick Fealty

    Added speculation from the Indo that the wider context for this abuse may involve more than one offender…

  • Alias

    “Is a sex offender a social leper forever?” – Fitz

    The concern is not that the childern would be socially disgraced by contact with a “social leper” but that they would be sexually abused by him, so the issue is child protection and not social rehabilitation.

    Are recidivism rates higher for child sex abusers than they are for other categories of sex offenders? Yes, they are 10% to 15% after five years, 20% after 10 years, and 30%-40% after 20 years (Hanson, Morton, & Harris, 2003). That, of course, only accounts for recidivist crimes that have been detected. Since not all of it will be detected, the actual recidivism rates among child sex abusers is higher.

    Since these folks are likely to re-offend, and to do so with devastating consequences for their young victims, schools should not compromise their duty of care to children by employing people who are likely to harm them.

  • Mrs jones

    The sight of the former Minister for Justice,who said nothing,and done nothing about child abuse in ireland,while she was the Minister for Justice,interviewing a victim of child abuse was stomach churning imho.Endas
    ‘historic speach’ condemning the Holy See is nothing more than noise coming from a party whose Minister for Justice didn’t wag so much as a little finger in the right directions the last time they were in power.

  • Alias,
    You quote my question “Is a sex offender a social leper forever?”
    As I hope I made clear in the next paragraph
    “Or is the protection of children so obviously a case for draconian sentencing (Id argue yes)”.

    The irony is that Nobody can speak “for” a sex offender out of any kind of sympathy.
    Nor can anyone speak “for” one out of asense of Justice.
    Look at the animosity and ridicule “Lord” Longford attracted for speaking for Myra Hindley.
    Sex Offence particularly against children brings out the “white van man” in us all… included.

    My point here is that we must lock them away for ever, possibly even treating the most minimal (and I hate that term) offence as being the same as the most serious. As well as the risk of re-offending (which you point out correctly) there is the known factor that “lesser” crimes have led to serious ones.
    As the case in the entire western world…rightly or wrongly is that offences are graded…..there is in the vast majority of cases people being released.
    And there simply is not enough “monitors” to guarantee (is that even possible?) re-offending.
    If these people arent allowed to live in areas where the offence was committed (and clearly thats not good for victims) they have to live elsewhere..ironically in a place where they are NOT known.
    So what exactly can be done?
    A gated post-penal colony on the southern end of the Ards Peninsula or western Galway where people live “freely” but with severe restrictions, where food is left at the gates every day.
    Clearly if people cant be kept in prison OR released to live (monitored) in the community, it is time we took drastic action.

  • Mick Fealty

    Mrs J,

    Child sex abuse is notoriously difficult to detect, not least since the victims live with such high degrees of fear and shame.

    The legal proofs are also complex and exacting.

    When a case like this makes it to a successful conclusion the people we ought to consider are those who are still victims and remain captured by their abusers.

    More of which anonn.

  • Mick Fealty

    One of the cognitive tricks such cases engender is the tendency for people to believe that because all trials consider the facts of the matter in regard to incidents which have taken place in the past, that the wider problem must reside there too.

    Case proven, problem solved, so to speak.

    And it’s not all church based either.Thats just one of the misgivings I have about the taoiseach’s speech. The majority of abusers remain outside the official walls church. Such focus on the church should not cast that fact into greater darkness.

    So questions need to be publicly asked of the school board, not least because this was a largely secular organisation as to how they handled the issue a priori.

    What we need is to create confidence in the system by having it work and lifting these victims out of their misery now, not twenty or thirty years hence. Which is why Doherty’s question is important in this context…

  • pippakin

    “Added speculation from the Indo that the wider context for this abuse may involve more than one offender…”

    Its a possibility. If its outside the family then it seems to me it more often involves rings.

    In our case its almost understandable. If for eg. a priest was an abuser of many children the children may have talked about it among themselves, worse they may have grown to believe it was ‘normal’ as for many of them it was.

  • Harry Flashman

    Excellent letter in the Irish Times today,

    “Sir, – Growing up in Gweedore in the 1980s, I came into contact with Michael Ferry, as many young people did. He was involved in youth clubs, he went on official school tours, he ran a school tuck shop and became a school caretaker.

    It was widely known among children then that he was “dodgy” and plying children with drink. There must have been doubts about him in the minds of adults too. Yet no one intervened. At that same time, a vicious paedophile priest, since convicted, was also active in the area.

    I am sure there is much wringing of hands and shaking of heads in Gweedore this week, but how was this allowed to happen?

    I am sure if he was shoplifting or robbing the post office he would have not got away with doing so for over 20 years. – Yours, etc,”

    Impossible to believe that in such a small community this man’s actions weren’t well known, as the letter writer said if he had been a shoplifter he’d have been run out of town.

  • Do the State and Church authorities need more effective behaviour monitoring systems? It appears to me that there may be too many occasions when those in power are more concerned about protecting their members and institutions than in reducing the numbers of their victims.

    Greg Harkin claims that Michael Ferry is a former seminarian who taught religious and sex education in a secondary school, seemingly a fox who had too easy access to the chicken house.

  • Mick Fealty

    Harkin has his byline on that first Indo piece too.

  • John Ó Néill

    Derek Mulligan’s interview with Nora Owen was pretty raw last night (not least due to an apparent lack of craft on her part, although, to be fair, it isn’t a subject that lends itself to a comfortable experience for any of those involved).

    At this stage, with Cloyne and Enda Kenny’s speech still very much to the fore (as much as I liked the content I just cannot warm to his delivery) the most appalling aspect is that the context and detail of the Michael Ferry case is having to be jigsawed together by the media. If you follow this thread back to the top and look at the addenda, its clear that the overall picture is only slowly coming together. And it is not being done by any state agency or office, but by individual journalists etc. Is it too much to ask that relevant government offices like the Dept of Justice take these issues by the scruff of the neck rather than hobble behind the story. It looks like the authorities running (or who ran) Ard Scoil Mhuire were disengaged. It seems like the contemporary attitude to these stories is to try to not get involved at an official level and the overall approach seems completely headless.

    For anyone that doesn’t know the geography, Bunbeg, Magheraclogher, Middletown and Derrybeg is a more or less continuously built up area that straggles along a mile and half or so of road in western Gaoth Dobhair. While it has a relatively dense population but lacks a coherent urbanised core. It is somewhere between a rural and urban space. I spent three months at school in Bunbeg in the mid-1980s and stayed just down from Ard Scoil Mhuire. We played football in various places, possibly even up in the school but fortunately nothing sticks in my mind.

  • Mrs jones

    Dáil Éireann Debate
    Vol. 459 No. 8,1995

    Ms F. Fitzgerald:

    I welcome the Minister’s comments. I am delighted the file has been referred to the DPP. I also welcome the Minister’s statement on policy issues in the DPP’s office. People are horrified that children in care over a long period in different homes have been subjected to sexual abuse. What is important now is to ensure there is intervention to stop this happening. In that regard, is the Minister satisfied the new guidelines given to the Garda

    [1806] Síochána and health board workers are working effectively? Will she give a commitment to the House that there will be joint training of gardaí and health board staff, particularly social workers, to ensure those new guidelines published this year on procedures for reporting child sexual abuse are being implemented properly? This is one of the most effective ways of ensuring that from now on children in residential care are protected and cases are reported quickly and action taken if anything is suspected.

    Mrs. Owen:

    The new guidelines were issued in April because it was found that the 1987 guidelines did not specify when or even if the Garda Síochána should refer cases to the health boards. They are now in place. I assure Deputy Fitzgerald that included in those guidelines is a requirement to train people designated by the Garda Síochána and by the health boards to ensure they are fully aware of what they have to do. My colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Austin Currie, worked on these guidelines most extensively. We discussed the need for letting the Garda Síochána and the health boards know that care should be taken in selecting people, male or female to act as liaison people, to ensure that they are sensitive people appropriate for the job they have to do. Those regulations now require that the notification of cases between the two agencies should be standard procedure. These guidelines will mean we will not have Deputies saying 20 years from now that something should have been done in 1995. All the abuses we are talking about happened in these institutions as far back as the 1970s. I hope with the knowledge we have now, we will move forward and ensure that children in institutions or in their private homes will not end up as victims of sexual abuse.

    20 years later…..

  • Mick Fealty


    JUst listening to it now. I’d recommend people watch it. But to return to the question, given this guy was doing what he did beyond 2002 on school property – “They don’t know what they have done, that College” – and, from the statement they seem to have known about the risk, there is some very serious questions to answer here.

  • John Ó Néill

    Well, the statement (as quoted on RTE and above) states that:
    Following his arrest in 2001 and prior to his subsequent conviction he was dismissed from his post as caretaker. This dismissal took place at a formal meeting, attended by two directors of Coláiste Cholmcille.

    So they have admitted that much. But the story has already moved beyond that point since Derek Mulligan stated that he continued to work there up until his arrest.
    Since Coláiste Cholmcille didn’t elaborate on the status of the building outside of the three months in which they used it – e.g. did they lease it for three months from another party etc – it isn’t clearly if that same other party was facilitating Ferry’s access to the building. But at least one other interviewee indicated that Coláiste Cholmcille employed him in other capacities and so there are still serious questions to be addressed in detail by Coláiste Cholmcille.

    I’d list two to begin with:

    1. Define the arrangements around the use of Ard Scoil Mhuire since the 1980s: who are the owners of the property; what relationship does Coláiste Cholmcille with them; and, in particular, who is/was responsible for the upkeep of the property outside the summer when it is in residence.
    2. In what capacities did Michael Ferry ever have access to either (i) Ard Scoil Mhuire, or (ii) Coláiste Cholmcille. What are the exact chronological details of his relationship on an employed and/or voluntary basis: who hired him and paid him, and when.

  • Mrs jones

    Mick Fealty

    21 July 2011 at 7:14 am

    Mrs J,

    Child sex abuse is notoriously difficult to detect, not least since the victims live with such high degrees of fear and shame.

    The legal proofs are also complex and exacting.

    Dáil Éireann Debate
    Vol. 450 No. 6,1995
    3. Ms O’Donnell

    asked the Minister for Justice her views on the fact that crime statistics indicate a discrepancy as between the numbers of child abuse allegations reported to the Garda and the numbers of prosecutions which proceed to trial; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5644/95]

    31. Ms O’Donnell

    asked the Minister for Justice her views on whether the crime statistics indicate a discrepancy as between the numbers of child abuse allegations reported to the Garda and the numbers of prosecutions proceeded with to trial; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5476/95]

    Mrs. Owen: I propose to take Questions Nos. 3 and 31 together.
    Where a complaint or allegation is made to the gardaí on child abuse, a detailed investigation is always carried out. Arising from this investigation, the gardaí will refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions if the evidence supports such action. However, in certain exceptional cases where there is reason to believe that the suspect may abscond, the gardaí may arrest and charge the suspect without first obtaining the directions of the DPP.

    It should be borne in mind that not all cases reported to the gardaí will, ultimately, be referred to the DPP. For [1129] instance, some allegations may be withdrawn. In other cases, despite exhaustive investigation on the part of the gardaí, there will be little or no evidence to sustain a prosecution.

    Where the evidence is deemed sufficient, a file is forwarded to the DPP for a decision as to whether a prosecution should be instituted. Having examined the investigation file, the DPP will then decide whether a prosecution should be taken.

    For those reasons, the process of investigation and referring the matter to the DPP will almost inevitably result in a lesser number of cases ultimately being the subject of a prosecution as compared to the number of complaints originally made to the gardaí. This is not due to any discrepancy but rather to the fact in this, as in other forms of crime, cases go to court only where the evidence is sufficient to support such a course of action.

    The fact that not all complaints of child abuse ultimately result in a prosecution should not, of course, deter anyone from making such a complaint. It is important that all such complaints are brought to the attention of the gardaí.

    Ms O’Donnell:

    Does the Minister accept that the gap between the number of validated allegations and prosecutions brought represents a failure of child protection in this State and that there is a need for a review of the guidelines used by the Director of Public Prosecutions in making a decision on whether to proceed with a case to trial? I refer the Minister to the 1993 annual report of the Garda Síochána in which it is stated that out of a total of 552 sexual offences, including children and adults, reported to the Garda, the State achieved only 17 convictions even though 232 proceeded to trial. I put it to the Minister that the whole area of non-prosecution of sexual allegations — allegations of sexual abuse and sexual crimes — needs to be reviewed by this House in the context of the operation of the DPP’s office.

    [1130]Mrs. Owen:

    The Deputy will be aware that the work of the DPP is independent of me or any Minister for Justice. I share the Deputy’s concern about the gap between the number of allegations made and the number of prosecutions, but it is a matter for the DPP to decide when prosecutions will be taken. On the later question I will deal with the machanisms whereby the gardaí and other agencies relate to child sexual abuse reports.

    I am not happy with the way statistics and information have been gathered in recent years. The Garda research unit which was set up last year will assist greatly in ensuring that this type of question can be answered more fully and realistically. The introduction of technology into the Garda will ensure that such statistics are broken down in a way that makes it possible for us to take the necessary action.

    The statistics in question do not use the term “child abuse”, nor do they refer to a specific crime. In 1992 there were 225 crimes against children, in 1993 there were 243 and in 1994 there were 249, but they cover a number of categories of crime against children.

    Mrs. Owen:
    Let me comment in a general way on the powers of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The DPP has powers to appeal against a lenient sentence provided it comes from a trial court. The case in question today has come from an appeal court and, therefore, he has no power to appeal.
    Ms O’Donnell:
    That compounds the injustice.
    Mrs. Owen:
    That is the legislation.

    Would you have confidence in the system?

  • Alias

    Fitz, sorry for the misundertanding (you’re often too subtle) but that clarifying post is too “white van man” for me. I don’t have any sentimental attachment to children (my two daughters regularly complain about this), but I recognise that they are a socially vulnerable group that require special protection which also requires limitations on the rights of those who are pathologically programmed to harm them. Essentially, the right to freedom of movement and to employment.

    My view is that convicted child sex offenders should not have any right to employment that supercedes any duty that others may have to protect children in their care, e.g. play groups, schools, mountaineering instruction, gyms, etc. They can be employed as politicians and journalists, and other hack jobs, but not if those places of employment recieve visits from children or their careers require them to make contact with them. As it wouldn’t be possible to list all such occupations, a duty of care must be placed on the employer under health and safety legislation so that he can be held legally accountable for the risk. Beyond that, there should be no sanction.

    When we have the bishops in the dock and the schoold boards being held accountable failing to contain the risk, then we’ll have those folks make a concerted effort to control it. Not until then.