Exactly one year after a sex abuse scandal rocked the quiet Gaeltacht community of Gaoth Dobhair to its very core, victims and their families are still awaiting a report into how the HSE (formerly NWHB) dealt with a garda referral to the health service in relation to convicted Gweedore child sex abuser Michael Ferry.
At the time Minister for Justice Alan Shatter called on the Garda Commissioner to compile a report into how Ferry remained as a caretaker at the Gweedore school after a 2002 child abuse conviction.
Ferry (56), with an address at Carrickboyle, was sentenced in July of last year to 18 years (the final four were suspended) in jail for raping and abusing four boys at the nearby Ard Scoil Mhuire on dates between July 1, 1990 and September 31, 2005. In December 2002, Ferry had been convicted on two counts of sexual assault at Letterkenny District Court. He was given a six-month suspended sentence and a €500 fine. He was also placed on the Sex Offenders Register.
Derek Mulligan from Machaire Chlochair who chose to wave his anonymity in order to ensure that Ferry’s name would be highlighted and released to the media said that a year later he felt like the case had been plummeted from the spotlight into darkness.
“It is exactly one year later and we have not received any explanation as to why this was allowed to happen. So many lives have been affected by this atrocity and we want and need answers. At one point the case was in the spotlight and a year later it is shrouded in darkness. The victims in this case need to be able to have an explanation from these bodies in order to put the past behind them. We have suffered enough, we do not expect the governmental bodies and representatives who are being paid to protect and represent us, to prolong this suffering,” he said.
He questioned what measures the government were going to introduce to ensure that ‘an atrocity like this” should never be allowed to happen again’.
“We want to find out why this was allowed to happen and who is responsible. Why is this report taking so long? The government should, as a matter of priority, introduce tags so that the gardaí know where sex offenders are at all times. New legislation should also be put in place to protect children and the government should be doing this, it is what they are being paid to do - protect children,” he said.
In July last year, the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter said: “It is unacceptable that this individual having being reportedly convicted for child abuse of a student nine years earlier continued to be employed as a caretaker in the school and to have access to vulnerable children. I have asked the Garda Commissioner to report to me on the background to this matter and with particular regard to the contact, if any, local gardaí
had with those in charge of the school and with the local health board subsequent to the first conviction.”
A preliminary garda report into the matter said the force’s records showed the then North Western Health Board was informed by gardaí, in accordance with the Children First guidelines, of Ferry’s conviction and of where he was believed to be working.
A query from the Donegal Democrat to the HSE this week on the status of the much awaited report, had not received a reply at the time of going to press.