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Former rugby coach took up coaching position in UCD after admitting sexual assault in 1996

A former rugby coach and teacher at a Dublin private school who abused 23 students admitted to one of the allegations in 1996, a court has heard.

John McClean (76) abused the boys between 1973 and 1990 while he worked for Terenure College.

He left the school in 1996 after certain allegations were made and took up a role coaching rugby with UCD.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that when this allegation arose in 1996, McClean had meetings with Father Robert Kelly, the then Provincial of the Carmelite Order in Ireland, and during one of these meetings McClean admitted to the allegation.

When providing gardaí with notes of this meeting during the investigation into these offences, Fr Kelly said he had no recollection of this, but that if it was in the notes then “it was true”.

McClean assaulted several of the victims under the guise of fitting them for costumes for plays he produced in the school.

He also abused boys he brought to his office after they had gotten into trouble in class. One such victim was the younger brother of another victim.

The court heard that some of the victims believed they were either not selected for or dropped from the school rugby team as punishment for challenging him over his sexual abuse of them.

One victim said in this victim impact statement that McClean was “evil personified” and that he had “crossed paths with the devil at Terenure College”.

Another victim said in his impact statement that he hoped a landmark will be built on the grounds of Terenure College as an acknowledgement of the past.

He said such a gesture would go some way to healing the victims and their family members.

McClean, of Casimir Avenue, Harold’s Cross, Dublin, pleaded guilty to 27 charges of indecently assaulting the males at Terenure College in Dublin on dates between 1973 and 1990. Further charges are being taken into consideration.

The accused had denied all offences when interviewed by gardaí and three trial dates were fixed before he finally pleaded guilty in November 2020. He has no previous convictions.

Inspector Jason Miley today told Paul Murray SC, prosecuting, that in 1996 the father of one of the victims informed Father Robert Kelly, the then Provincial of the Carmelite Order in Ireland, about the allegation his son had made against McClean.

Inspector Miley said Fr Kelly had a number of meetings over the summer break with McClean during which it was made clear McClean would not be returning to Terenure College.

McClean was granted a three-year career break and became a rugby coach at UCD.

Inspector Miley agreed with Mr Guerin that Fr Kelly had a note of one of the meetings with McClean in 1996 during which McClean admitted to the allegation.

Fr Kelly told gardaí when providing these notes to them during this investigation that he had no recollection of this, but if it was in the notes then “it was true”.

Mr Guerin said his client has instructed him to give an “unreserved and unconditional apology”.

He said his client was “ashamed” of what he did and that no victim bares any responsibility for any of the offences or any of the harm done by him.

Counsel said said his client wants to publicly acknowledge that by his action he has done great harm to Terenure College, to the wider community and to the Carmelite Order, for which he is sorry.

Mr Guerin said his client took “a full part in the life of the school”.

He said there can be a temptation to see such involvement as being “purely for the cynical purpose of providing opportunities for offending.”

Counsel asked the court to not see it in this light, but to see the offending as “a deviation or aberration, albeit one much repeated, from a positive role he was able to play in the lives of others”.

Mr Guerin said it cannot be said that this offending was out of character, but it can be said that it was only a part of his client’s character.

Counsel said even a relatively short sentence could have the consequence of his client dying in custody.

He said his client understands he will receive a custodial sentence.

At a previous sentencing hearing, Mr Murray told the court that McClean was an English teacher at Terenure College between 1966 and 1996.

He also worked as a rugby coach in the school and was involved in costume fitting for school plays until around 1979.

Mr Murray said that from the early 1980’s, McClean was the first year “form master” and had his own office.

He was appointed to his role some time after being removed from involvement with school plays following allegations being made against him.

Judge Pauline Codd remanded McClean on continuing bail and adjourned the matter for finalisation to February 18, next.


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