`I wept for him - the tragedy now is he is a victim as well'

Irish Times
March 15, 1999

The name Colm O'Gorman was the first of eight read out in the long list of sex abuse charges against Father Sean Fortune in Wexford Circuit Court on March 2nd. Almost four years after he made his original complaint to the Garda, Mr O'Gorman (32) believed the priest was finally being brought to justice.

"For a long time I just tried to forget about what had happened to me. When I was 17 I left home and lost contact with my family for about four years. Then my sister attended a wedding where Father Fortune was the priest. She told me afterwards that he was hanging around young boys and it was probably still going on.

"Initially I thought I might write to the Bishop. Then my Dad, who had never spoken about it before, told me on New Year's Eve 1994 that he couldn't cope with it anymore and that spurred me on to doing something. After that I made the original statement to the gardai. The system failed me in other ways but I have to say they were fantastic, one in particular, all the way through.

"I was not scared going into court. I knew he was cornered and trying to negotiate a plea. The day before the court case I was approached to see if I would drop the buggery charge. The cynicism of that really got to me. One minute he was in a wheelchair and needing crutches and saying he was unwell and the next thing he was trying to wriggle out of it. But I needed to make him face up to it.

"All I wanted from the court case was to be able to say what happened and to have a reaction from the justice system, and from society, an acknowledgement of it.

"To have all those charges read out in court was an incredible moment. But then it was back to waiting and wondering how long more could he manage to stretch it out. It has been a long four years and I think I'm probably going to start to realise now what it has taken out of me.

"My abuse began when I was 15. I was involved in a lot of church activities and one day he came over and started talking to me. Two weeks later he turned up at our front door.

"He invited me to Poulfur for the weekend. After that first time he blackmailed me into going back. I was very shocked and felt guilty, and it triggered a lot of stuff because I had been abused before. He said I needed help and if I did not let him give it to me he would go tell my parents. When I think of it now I want to go back 18 years and grab myself out of that car and say `No, it's not your fault'.

"I think that the church has an opportunity now to put right what happened, not just in this case. The church must lead the people in this. They have an opportunity to do what they are supposed to do, to act with love, compassion and respect. I read a lot in the papers this morning about how the bishop asked for prayers for his family.

"There was no mention of the rest, obviously there may be legal constraints, but he could have asked for prayers for the others affected. It is sad for me, my family and for all the boys abused and their families. I am praying for him (Father Fortune) too. Yesterday I wept for him. He was a human being, the tragedy now is that he is a victim as well."

(In an interview with Alison O'Connor)

Colm O'Gorman is involved in setting up a charity in the UK to help people who have been sexually abused. The charity's name, One in Four, refers, he explains, to the number of people who it is estimated will be sexually abused before the age of 18.



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