by Irvin Muchnick
One week out from our federal court hearing in the Freedom of Information Act fight for George Gibney’s American immigration records, Concussion Inc. landed a major pickup: the long-sought full text of what Ireland’s Murpny Commission said about Gibney in its 1998 report on sexual abuse in Irish swimming.
That Gibney was identified there as bad guy No. 1 or 1-A has never been in doubt; contemporary Irish newspaper reporting on the Murphy report’s release made that clear. But getting my hands on the primary source document proved challenging, because of the passage of time and because even friendly journalists on the Emerald Isle might have felt constrained by their country’s different public information and defamation laws and practices.
Recently I decided to go to the horse’s mouth by contacting commission chair Roderick Murphy himself. Two years after the publication of the report, Murphy began what is now a 16-year tenure as a justice on the High Court. (To correct something I’ve stated previously, Ireland’s highest court, like ours, is called the Supreme Court; the High Court is not the same as the Supreme Court.)
I didn’t hear back for a long time, and I figured that was that. This week, however, I got an email from John Edwards, secretary of the Association of Judges of Ireland. Edwards said, “I have had some difficulty in ascertaining the position with respect to the Murphy Commission Report,” and added that his understanding was that there were no online copies. He suggested the National Library of Ireland.
Today, thanks to the diligence of a librarian on duty who gives a good name to bibliothecaries everywhere, I struck gold. (I’m abstaining from naming this upstanding representative of the helping professions only because she probably doesn’t need any of the grief that might be generated by such attention. I did, however, make a point of noting her good work to Sandra Collins, the national library director.)
It turns out that there is, indeed, an online link to the 160-plus-page Murphy report — as the librarian discovered after reaching out to a colleague at the library for the Oireachtras (national legislature). The full title is First Interim Report of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Sport and Recreation: Protection of Children in Sport: June 1998. The link is http://opac.oireachtas.ie/AWData/Library3/Library2/DL046938.pdf.
At http://muchnick.net/murphyongibney.pdf, we’ve uploaded the 29 pages with direct reference to Gibney. As is evident from the reporting of the Irish media (most notably Justine McCarthy, author of the 2009 book Deep Deception: Ireland’s Swimming Scandals), Gibney is introduced in Chapter 5 of the Murphy report as “the first named coach.”
The commission notes that Gibney started his swim club (the Trojans, out of the Newpark Comprehensive School Sports Centre) in 1976. “Once appointed Olympic Coach” in 1988, “he seemed to dominate Irish swimming.” In 1989 he was named an Honorary Life Member of the Irish Amateur Swimming Association (IASA). This honor was “suspended” in 1997.
On overseas trips, the report says, Gibney swimmers were “locked into their rooms” and “conditioned not to protest.”
He had first abused an 11-year-old male swimmer in 1967 and an 11-year-old female swimmer in 1968. Then there’s this:
“A third witness said that in 1975 when she was 13 she had stayed for a month with the coach when her parents were on holiday and she alleged that the coach slept with her and abused her. She confided in a school friend who encouraged her to speak to a priest. She said that the priest advised her to confront the abuser and ask him to stop. When she did she said that the coach slapped her across the face, called her a whore and told her to stay away from boys. The coach then ignored her but she said later forced her to perform oral sex with him. Abuse continued and the witness believed that the coach had intercourse with her in 1977 when she was 15.”
A fourth witness said Gibney’s abuse of her began at age 12.
A fifth witness is the June 1991 victim of Gibney’s rape at a Tampa, Florida, hotel on a training trip. This swimmer said he had first indecently assaulted her in Holland a year earlier.
A sixth witness was 12 at the time she said Gibney first molested her.
At an internal swimming administrative hearing in December 1992, three complainants testified to these and additional incidents — involving both the apparent first male, and a girl over a five-year period starting when she was 9.
Gibney was criminally charged on April 6, 1993. Newpark School claimed to the Murphy Commission that Gibney had been terminated more than two months earlier.
Criminal proceedings were discontinued in September 1994 as a result of a court ruling that the long delay in bringing charges had violated Gibney’s right to a fair trial.
In April 1995, Gibney attended “a swimming gala and a children’s coaching session” at the invitation of a former officer of IASA.
Chapter 8 of the report addresses the topic “Why did victims not complain?” In fact, some victims did complain, or at least express dissatisfaction in some form, which invariably fell on deaf ears. To the extent that some victims spoke up not at all, this was explained by issues of of age, experience, power imbalance, trust, and fear — now pillars of our understanding of abuse dynamic and dysfunction.
The Murphy Commission concluded: “In light of the charges arising out of the Garda investigation the complainants were vindicated.”
Complete headline links to our Gibney coverage are at https://concussioninc.net/?p=10717.