by Irvin Muchnick
George Gibney — the rapist former Irish national swim team coach whose 20 years of alien residency in the United States have come under renewed scrutiny — taught at the Newpark School in Dublin in the 1970s during the same period when fellow Irish native John Furlong, later president and CEO of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, was the school’s equivalent of athletic director.
The significance of this find is elevated by a 2012 article in The Georgia Straight, a Vancouver weekly newspaper, in which writer Laura Robinson exposed lies about his past by Furlong, one of Canada’s most celebrated public figures. See “John Furlong biography omits secret past in Burns Lake,” http://www.straight.com/news/john-furlong-biography-omits-secret-past-burns-lake.
Robinson’s story raised multiply sourced on-the-record allegations of physical and mental abuse of children by Furlong. The piece did not report instances of sexual abuse — though it did inspire several unsuccessful civil lawsuits by First Nations (Indian) people who claimed Furlong had so abused them. Furlong also filed a failed defamation lawsuit against Robinson.
We’ll get to some Furlong details below. For our purposes, what is most important about Furlong’s censored biography is where it connects with Gibney’s. At minimum, the connection may be a further illustration of how birds of an abusive feather flock together.
Gibney founded the Trojan Swimming Club at Newpark School in 1976. It is worth noting that it was while the Trojans were on an American training trip that Gibney raped a teenage swimmer in a Tampa hotel. Anti-abuse activists hope for Gibney’s extradition back to Ireland to face reopened criminal charges for this incident, as well as for some of the dozens of other counts for molestations documented, among other places, in the Murphy Commission report (authored by a Supreme Court judge).
Above all, they would like to see Gibney’s Florida victim, who has been largely incapacitated for a quarter of a century as a result of the sexual assault trauma, recover to the point where she is able to press her case with both American police and Ireland’s Director of Public Prosecutions.
Gibney was head coach of the Irish swimming team at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. Part of the Gibney spin by Irish sports officials is that he was no longer national coach in 1991, at the time of the Florida rape. This point is painfully semantic, since 1991 was between Olympiads. In any case, Ireland is a small country, Trojans were one of only a few top-drawer programs there, and the distinction makes no difference with respect to either Gibney’s heinous crimes or his national prominence.
As for Furlong … The Laura Robinson article establishes without a doubt that Furlong lied about his past in his 2011 memoir Patriot Hearts. Furlong claimed to have arrived in Canada in 1974. The Georgia Straight piece shows that after graduating from secondary school in Ireland, Furlong arrived in Burns Lake, British Columbia, in 1969, at age 18, and with no formal training, became a physical education teacher at the missionary Immaculata Elementary School. The school was operated by the Oblate Frontier Apostles, a Catholic order.
The school’s mission was to save the souls of the community’s First Nations population. The Robinson article describes numerous allegations of Furlong brutally striking, berating, and demeaning his students. A clue as to the truth of these allegations can be inferred from Furlong’s apparent need to white-out that line from his curriculum vitae. The date of his touchdown on Canadian soil is no throwaway line; it is a central anecdote of the narrative — told in Patriot Hearts and repeated to great profit on the lecture circuit — of how the goal of his repatriation to Canada was to “make us better.”
I have learned that Furlong, during his time back in Ireland in the early 1970s, in between Burns Lake and his circa 1974 emigration to Canada, had a sports administration role with the Newpark Comprehensive School in Blackrock, County Dublin. Newpark is operated by the Church of England. The Newpark Sports Centre was built in 1973, and that is likely at least one of the years Furlong was there, but I have not yet been able to pin down his dates. And to other journalists, Furlong has been as dodgy about his Newpark experience as he is about Burns Lake.
As noted, Gibney started the Trojans at Newpark in 1976. Prior to that, according to Irish journalist Justine McCarthy of London’s Sunday Times, Gibney was a part-time metalworks teacher at the school. It is possible that Gibney and Furlong were Newpark colleagues in 1973-74. It is even possible that Gibney succeeded Furlong as athletic director or sports manager, but the timeline is not yet chronicled. We’ll be reporting further on possible common Gibney-Furlong experiences.
Meanwhile, my attorney Roy S. Gordet and I continue to be pleased with the progress of my Freedom of Information Act litigation for fuller release of documents from Gibney’s 100-plus-page American immigration file. Our new brief, in opposition to the government’s motion for summary judgment, will be filed shortly with Judge Charles R. Breyer of U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
GEORGE GIBNEY SERIES TO DATE