Irish police are now investigating a number of claims from victims in Donegal relating to a pedophile ring that operated in the county.
The report into abuse in the Raphoe diocese has been delayed as former police detective Martin Ridge, who moved to Donegal after his retirement from the force, has championed the victims of lay and clerical abuse.
The victims of a lay pedophile ring in Donegal’s Irish speaking Gaeltacht region have accused police of being complicit in the cover-up of lay and clerical child abuse.
As the publication of the explosive report into sexual abuse in the diocese of Raphoe is delayed, one of those who co-operated in the investigation has gone public with his claims.
John O’Donnell, now 55, was abused by a male singer in his local church choir from the age of nine to 15.
He has spoken at length to the Guardian newspaper about the pedophile ring which operated ‘for years’ in Donegal – and he is not the only victim to come forward.
Nor is O’Donnell the only victim to tell the English newspaper that Irish police officers were complicit in the culture of cover-up.
O’Donnell’s harrowing story includes his account of the angry response from a local officer when he went to a police station to report the rape by a lay member of his local church choir.
“He assaulted me from when I was nine until I was 15, until I was old enough to know it was wrong,” O’Donnell told the Guardian.
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“This man took advantage because I was adopted and regarded as something lower than most kids in the area.
“The abuse took place at his home and in a shop he ran. It went on from 1965 to 1972.”
When O’Donnell decided to report the rapes to his local police station, he was shocked by the reaction of the officer on duty.
“A local guard was outraged that I was naming such a fine upstanding member of the community as a child rapist,” revealed O’Donnell.
“The officer slapped me on the face and told me to get out. He said to me that I was adopted and not worth anything. From that day on I never fully trusted a member of the Garda Síochána (police service).”
O’Donnell hid his past for years as he married and raised a family without every discussing the horrors of his childhood.
It was only when stories of clerical child abuse began to surface in the late 1990s that he decided to face up to his own reality. Again the reaction was shocking.
“I found out that my abuser was still in the church choir and I was outraged because he was working with children,” he added.
“So I drove up to a parochial house in the area and tried to speak to the parish priest about this man.
“At the time I had finally got somewhere with the gardaí (police) and they had questioned this man in a Donegal police station.
“I informed the parish priest about this but he wouldn’t even let me across his door.
“He kept saying: ‘No, no, no … I am not speaking to you about this.’ He didn’t want to know, and bear in mind this was only back in 2005.”
Ridhe, now the author of ‘Breaking the Silence’, the book which chronicles the victims’ stories, believes the Raphoe report will be even more damning than the recent Cloyne findings.
“The Raphoe report will be damning and will expose the same culture of local denial and cover-up that was found in other Catholic dioceses across Ireland,” said Ridge who also admitted that the police force he served will not spared withering criticism.
Ridge said: “There were 45 victims of three different pedophiles, one of whom was a priest, another a school teacher.
“None of the victims wanted to be interviewed in local gardaí (police) stations. The question has to be asked as to why they did not trust the local force when this was going on.”
O’Donnell still lives in the scene village of Falcarragh. As he surveyed the natural beauty of the area in the company of the Guardian’s Ireland correspondent Henry McDonald, O’Donnell remarked: “Yes, it’s a beautiful area with amazing views and scenery … it would be even more beautiful but for some of the bastards still living here.”