Coláiste Cholmcille Irish college in Derrybeg “has serious questions to answer,” Pearse Doherty, Sinn Fein TD, said yesterday. The Gaoth Dobhair-based deputy questioned why a school would employ a convicted sex offender in any circumstance. “There’s no logical reason for that at all,” he said.
Michael Ferry, 56, with an address at Carrickboyle, Gweedore, was sentenced to 18 years in prison on Monday, after pleading guilty to 38 sample charges against four young boys for offences that took place between 1991 and 2003.
Coláiste Cholmcille, the summer Irish college based at Ardscoil Mhuire in Derrybeg, issued a statement that said Ferry had been allowed to do repairs under supervision at the school, despite having been convicted in 2002 at Letterkenny District Court of sexually abusing a young boy at the school. Ferry was placed on the sex offenders register at that time, and received a non-custodial sentence and a 500 euro fine. Ferry was not named at that time.
Deputy Doherty said there was shock across the parish at the developments over the last weeks. “I think there is genuine shock that first of all he was convicted as a sex offender in 2002 and the community didn’t know, and more so the fact that the college continued to have him in their employment and continued to allow him access to the facility in which the assault took place in the 1980s,” he said.
The statement from the college said that following Ferry’s arrest in 2001 and before his 2002 conviction he was dismissed as caretaker at the school and forced to surrender his keys. But the statement said that in the years following, Ferry occasionally performed necessary repairs, “always in the company of other workers” when “the building was vacant and not in use”. “That doesn’t make sense,” Deputy Doherty said. Sinn Féin Cllr Marie-Therese Gallagher has called for an independent investigation into the matter, and Deputy Doherty said Sinn Féin supports that call at the national level as well. The deputy said it was clear that gardaí had informed the college of Ferry’s arrest, but the college did not act appropriately. “A question that has to be asked is what further actions could the gardaí take?” Deputy Doherty said.
Dinny McGinley, TD, minister of state for Gaeltacht Affairs, said he has met with Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald several times this week to discuss the matter and said the enquiries under way “must be brought to a conclusion as swiftly as possible”. It is “important that lessons are learned for the future”, Minister McGinley said. He said he also wanted to “acknowledge the terrible hurt visited on the victims and their families” and the “deep concern and upset across the whole community”.