The directors of Coláiste Cholmcille in Derrybeg, where Michael Ferry continued to carry out work as a caretaker, despite being convicted of sexual assault in 2002, have confirmed that they knew about this. They insist, however, that he was not formally employed by the school after his arrest in 2001 and was not left alone with young people at any time after that.
One of the directors, Donal O Loinsigh, told media: “He would have done odd jobs under supervision. I mean everybody was informed.
“This was no secret. If he had something to do, he was well monitored.
The directors issued a statement on the matter yesterday.
They said: “Two days ago, the 55-year-old from Carrick Boyle, Gweedore, was convicted at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin of molesting and raping four boys and sentenced to 18 years in prison with four years suspended.
“The abuse happened at Ard Scoil Mhuire, in Derrybeg, between July 1990 and September 2005.
They said the school authorities were “traumatised and dumbfounded” to learn that the attacks on the four victims were carried out on the school grounds. It is understood that the victims were not pupils at the school.
The directors expressed their “deep regret” to the victims but took issue with comments made by Mr Justice Paul Carney during Ferry’s trial.
They said it was “factually incorrect” to say that Ferry continued in his role as caretaker to the building after his conviction for sexual assault in 2002.
“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.”
They said he was required to hand over his keys to the school at that time and teaching staff were informed of the reason for his dismissal.
The directors said he was never re-employed as caretaker aLthough he did take part in “effecting necessary repairs” over the years but only when the building was not in use and always accompanied by other workers. He was, on occasion, paid for this work by the school authorities.
“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 statement continued.
“With the benefit of hindsight, in the light of the information now available we regret having allowed this,” the directors said.
In the statement, the directors point out that, although “routine intermittent security checks of the building during its long periods of unoccupancy did not reveal evidence of unauthorised use”. However, they acknowledge that “information emerging from the recent court case states that Micheal Ferry continued to access the building subsequent to his dismissal as caretaker in 2001”. They add that the building was vacant for nine months of the year and say “apart from the above mentioned periods of authorised accompanied access, any other access of the building by Micheal Ferry was totally unauthorised.”