Priest gets four years for sexual abuse

Irish Times
December 20, 2007

A 78-year-old priest who sexually abused several girls over a 25-year period has been given a four-year sentence by Judge Patrick McCartan who suspended all but 18 months he must serve.

Fr Patrick McDonagh, Grove Road, Newbury, Berkshire, England, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to eight counts of sexual and indecent assault on four girls in Dublin, Limerick and Roscommon between 1965 and 1990.

Sgt Gerard Daly told Melanie Greally, prosecuting, that McDonagh, a member of the the Salvatorian order, voluntarily admitted abusing six more victims but did not divulge further details.

Sgt Daly said that when he arrested McDonagh in December 2006 for the most recent abuse, a girl in 1990, he gave the names of three other girls he abused and said there were six other victims but refused to identify them.

Sgt Daly said the abuse started in 1965 when McDonagh used to occasionally visit a then seven-year-old victim's home in Dublin.

Sgt Daly said McDonagh visited the home of two sisters, aged six and 10, in Limerick for long weekends in 1984 and after they said their prayers he would climb into bed with them. On another occasion the elder girl was sitting on his knee in the living room when McDonagh began to fondle her beneath her underwear.

Sgt Daly said the most recent abuse took place in Roscommon in 1990, when the victim was six to seven years old. One night when McDonagh was visiting the family's home, the girl wandered into his bedroom by mistake and was asked by McDonagh to get into bed with him. Sgt Daly said when McDonagh was arrested he admitted the offences and said he abused his position of power but denied there was any "sexual motivation" behind it.

Fr Alec McAllister, vicar provincial of the Salvatorians, told Judge McCartan that McDonagh had been under their care in England since his retirement in 2004 and since these allegations had come to light he had been under strict instructions to receive counselling and was not allowed near any children or to say Mass.

Fr McAllister said McDonagh had been a member of the order since his ordination in 1955 and had held various teaching positions in boys' schools and seminaries and had been stationed in Rome and Australia.

He said even if he was defrocked, McDonagh would continue to remain under their care for "child protection" purposes.

Defence counsel Patrick Gageby appealed to Judge McCartan not to impose a custodial sentence in light of the conditions he was kept under by the Salvatorians as well as his remorse and early guilty plea.


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