by Irvin Muchnick
As noted in the previous post, my interview regarding the Freedom of Information Act fight for George Gibney’s 102-page United States Citizenship and Immigration Services file airs today on Tamara Holder’s “Sports Court” on Fox News platforms.
What could be the key hearing in the FOIA case is scheduled for Friday morning before federal Senior Judge Charles Breyer.
It is now more than 20 years since Gibney arrived as a resident (and perhaps, since 2010, citizen) of this country. He was in flight from more scores of allegations of sexual abuse, involving more dozens of young female and male swimmers in his charge, than we’ll ever know.
In these two-plus decades, not a single American hero has emerged to hold our swimming establishment and our government accountable for this disgrace, and to move for justice for the many Gibney victims who have emerged. Some of them were documented in the Irish government’s 1998 Murphy Report. Some came forward with new sworn affidavits to the Irish police after Gibney got his original prosecution thrown out of court on a technicality. One of the most heartbreaking victims was raped on American soil, at age 17, on a Florida training trip, after which she was secretly whisked to England for an abortion; this victim, now a lifelong mental patient who has attempted suicide more than once, recently reemerged to press her case.
There are no American heroes — yet. But on the eve of oral arguments in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, let’s highlight the efforts of a few Irish ones.
Chalkie White was one of Gibney’s first victims. White went on to become a prominent coach and sports journalist in Ireland. It was his conversation, late in 1990, with one of the country’s greatest swimmers, that broke the dam of secrecy surrounding Gibney and other sex criminals at the top of Irish swimming.
Gary O’Toole was that great Irish swimmer to whom Chalkie White spoke up. White chose his confidante wisely. After the 1992 Olympics, it was O’Toole (now an orthopedic surgeon) who, at great personal and professional risk, reached out to others in the national swimming community, discreetly and firmly and supportively — building the tools and counseling and reporting mechanisms that sped the downfalls of George Gibney … and Derry O’Rourke … and Frank McCann … and Ger Doyle … and Father Ronald Bennett.
Johnny Watterson is the sports columnist for the Irish Times who — bucking industry custom and practice in his country — dared to name George Gibney by name, and chronicle his crimes, the first time Gibney wriggled off the legal hook.
Justine McCarthy of the Irish Independent, and now London’s Sunday Times, wrote Deep Deception: Ireland’s Swimming Scandals — the definitive account of this horrifying history. She befriended victims and gave them a voice. Along the way, she talked some of them down from hurting themselves. Against what she had been taught about journalistic “conflict of interest,” she even sent her husband-lawyer to work for one of them.
Maureen O’Sullivan is the member of the Dáil Éireann (lower house of the Irish legislature), representing Dublin Central, who last year revived the effort to get Gibney extradited and prosecuted.
Evin Daly is a native Irishman now living in the U.S., where he founded the advocacy group One Child International and is now chief operating officer and director of full case management for the Family Resource Center of South Florida. Singlehandedly, Daly has kept the quest for Gibney justice and accountability alive on these shores.
Will these several Irish heroes and the one Irish-American, at long last, find their very first American counterpart? As Friday’s court hearing looms, that is the question.
While all this plays out, USA Swimming has announced a contract extension for its million-dollar-a-year CEO since 1997, Chuck Wielgus — whose induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame was blocked in 2014 by a petition campaign of swimming coach abuse victims, including Diana Nyad, who documented Wielgus’s role in the sport’s officialdom’s denial, cover-ups, and perjury.