Former brother is guilty of assault

By Marese McDonagh
Irish Times
January 20, 2005

A former Marist brother was yesterday found guilty of 180 counts of indecent assaults against six young boys at a Sligo national school in the 1960s and 1970s. He will be sentenced next March.

A jury of eight women and four men unanimously convicted Christopher Cosgrove (61), Ballyhaunis Road, Claremorris, Co Mayo, after considering their verdict for two hours and 45 minutes. Judge Anthony Kennedy adjourned sentencing until the next sitting of Sligo Circuit Court and he remanded the accused on bail.

Commenting that Cosgrove was undoubtedly facing a custodial sentence, the judge ordered that he sign on at Claremorris Garda Station twice a week until sentence is imposed.

During the five-day trial it emerged that two other teachers at St John's National School, Temple Street, Sligo, had recently pleaded guilty to sexually abusing pupils there.

Cosgrove, who spent 20 years as a Marist brother from 1962 to 1982, denied the charges.

The former brother subjected his victims to a "reign of terror" unrestrained by any authority within the four walls of his classroom, prosecuting counsel Mr Eanna Molloy SC told the jury.

The court was told that a small number of boys were regularly brought up to Cosgrove's desk at the top of the classroom where they were subjected to indecent assaults. The other schoolboys were ordered to keep their eyes down as the complainants were held on the defendant's knee and molested. The offences occurred between 1968 and 1977.

One of the boys told the jury that he would wet himself rather than ask to go to the toilet because of his fear that Cosgrove would follow him into a cubicle and assault him.

This man, now in his 40s, said the accused had abused him in the school toilets on the day he made his confirmation which was also his birthday. He said the defendant used to call him up to his desk and put his hand inside his underpants and fondle him.He said he hated himself so much he couldn't look in the mirror and after leaving school he had dyed his hair and changed his name. As a teenager he had confided in a priest but had been told to pray for his own forgiveness.

Another complainant recalled that as Cosgrove never picked on fat boys in the class, he had tried to put on weight to try and exclude himself from the small cluster of children who were abused. This former pupil said he was taken on to the defendant's knee at least once a week and molested. He became very unhappy and disturbed and by the age of 16 was an alcoholic. When he was 29 he contemplated suicide and was going to put his head out the window of a train "but hadn't the guts to go through with it."

Another of the six former pupils recalled that he was regularly locked in a cupboard in the classroom and that Brother Christopher had commented that he would have to put a light in the press for him. He described what happened in the classroom as "terrorism" and said one of his most vivid memories was of being slapped repeatedly across the face by the defendant who kept smiling as he hit him.

Another former pupil said the accused used to put his cloak over the two of them and had taken his belt off and wrapped it around both of them so that he couldn't get away.

Five former pupils who were not themselves abused gave supporting testimony. One of them said that one of the injured parties had been a vibrant and outgoing child when he first came to St John's, but by the end of his time there he had been "broken".

Another described how two boys were regularly brought up to the top of the classroom and put on the defendant's knee but any other pupil who looked up from their books would get hammered. This witness said that the boys chosen to go up to the desk were good looking.

Another former pupil told of being made to stand in the "dunce's corner" with a dunce's hat on where he could see Brother Cosgrove squeezing a boy's genitals.

In his evidence the accused denied all the accusations against him, saying he had never interfered with any boy in his care. He agreed that he had taken boys on his knee but said this was to encourage or console them. He said he had been naive and innocent to put boys as old as 11 or 12 on his knee and insisted that he had got no sexual gratification from it. He said he could not explain why so many former pupils had made accusations against him but it was possible they had imagined it from reading newspapers.

Cosgrove, who joined the Marist order in 1962 and who married since leaving it in 1982, said he had felt that he did not have a proper vocation. He had joined the order because of pressure from a grandaunt.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.