Complete headline links to our series on George Gibney are at https://concussioninc.net/?p=10942.
by Irvin Muchnick
My Freedom of Information Act quest for the American immigration records of 1988 Irish Olympic swimming head coach George Gibney — arguably the most-wanted at-large sex criminal in global sports — is the most important story of my nearly half-century in journalism.
Most important does not mean the “biggest,” nor the most intellectually precious — just the one that has touched the most people personally and deeply. Two years ago, when I began pursuing in earnest the question “Who sponsored George Gibney’s green card?”, I had no idea how high it might eventually reach into allegations of official and societal corruption and depravity.
On October 28 in San Francisco federal court, Judge Charles Breyer will preside over what appears to be the climactic hearing in Concussion Inc.’s dispute with the Department of Homeland Security over release of Gibney’s 1990s visa application and related papers.
Five days earlier, on Sunday, October 23 — a week from today — a silent vigil will be held to mark the 30th anniversary of the disappearance in Dublin of Philip Cairns. Thirteen years old when he vanished during a school lunch break, Philip is believed to have been abducted, abused, and murdered, in an unsolved mystery that has shaken to their marrow the nerves and conscience of his small country, which enjoys so many associations with our own.
We have alluded previously, in passing, to the connections, both verified and speculated, between George Gibney and the Cairns case. Here, in anticipation of the two key dates later in the month, we offer comprehensive pointers to the pertinent investigations.
As the U.S. court hearing on the Gibney files approaches, I am inspired and humbled by the outpouring of support from his many beyond-doubt victims, their families, other abuse survivors, and those who simply want to see justice served and the historical record filled out of the cravenness and cover-ups of police and government authorities and other powerful people.
In going deep with Gibney in the U.S, I have had a parallel but different purpose in mind: the hope of shedding light on the American swimming establishment’s collusion in cross-border sexual abuse by amateur sports coaches worldwide, as well as on the ongoing internal cover-ups at USA Swimming and the American Swimming Coaches Association. In so doing, I have stood on the shoulders of giants in the Irish news media — most especially Justine McCarthy of London’s Sunday Times (author of the pathbreaking book Deep Deception: Ireland’s Swimming Scandals) and Johnny Watterson of the Irish Times.
Unfortunately, while concerned folks in Ireland have rallied to the prospect of exposing the dirty deal that got Gibney to America by way of Scotland, and have raised hopes for his extradition to face revived old charges along with newly emergent ones, journalists here have responded with apathy. More shameful still is the silence, at least so far, from American politicians, of both major parties and both genders, to the multiple direct appeals of Maureen O’Sullivan, the teachta dala (national legislator) from the Dublin Central district who has been championing the cause of Gibney’s victims.
Here’s the Facebook page for the “Justice for Philip Cairns” event: https://www.facebook.com/events/319295638426061/. An online petition, directed at the minister of justice and other public officials, is at https://www.change.org/p/minister-for-justice-justice-for-philip-ca3c09fb-468e-4680-8569-fa94b7badcb1?recruiter=3231880&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_term=des-md-share_petition-no_msg.
Next Sunday, the silent protest will gather at 12:45 p.m. at Ballyroan Community Centre carpark. The plan is to walk through the small laneway where Philip’s schoolbag was found six days after his disappearance. At 1:30, the time it’s understood he disappeared, flowers will be laid there. Vigil participants then will walk on to Rathfarnham police station.
Gareth O’Callaghan, a popular radio DJ who is organizing the event, said Rathfarnham station is the long-time seat of “shocking corruption evidence supported by victims of abuse” — a state of affairs that “has left many people terrified and afraid to openly talk for decades.”
For those looking to analogize the Philip Cairns saga, I advise screening Clint Eastwood’s 2008 film Changeling, which is loosely based on a 1920s case of a sick ring involved in the kidnapping and molestation of boys, and the almost certain murder of at least one of them, at a ranch in Riverside County in California. This episode’s winding, decade-long investigative trail included such twists as slam-dunk corruption in Los Angeles city government and the police-imposed and medically unfounded psychiatric commitment of women — among them, the crusading mother of one of the abuse ring’s presumed-dead victims.
A public in denial about the heinousness and scale of such crimes seems to gravitate eagerly to fictional accounts of long-ago stories. To stories right in front of their own lying eyes, not so much. What the Gibney scenario offers is a rare opportunity to follow in real time a development certain to become a dedicated subsection of a sordid chapter of history.
While major media in Ireland have kept alive the flicker of hope for Gibney justice and accountability, the job of connecting Gibney to the Cairns story has fallen to others — such as Broadsheet.ie, a feisty, no-nonsense alternative journalism website, and Gareth O’Callaghan.
Concussion Inc. has been linking to Broadsheet’s exhaustive coverage of Gibney and Cairns, and we reproduce those links at the bottom of this article. In May, Broadsheet explained how the 1994 quashing of charges against Gibney — just prior to his flight to America — was made possible by a Supreme Court decision the year before, which severely cramped previous standards for prosecution of abuse charges from the past. One of the justices on the bench in that case, Susan Denham, was the sister of Gibney’s lawyer, Patrick Gageby; obviously, she should have recused herself. Gageby would go on to apply the Supreme Court’s limitations on abuse cases on behalf of 15 other accused molesters.
The Denham-Gageby axis is the most direct and proven link between Gibney and Philip Cairns. Farther out there is the extent to which Gibney rubbed shoulders in Irish society with other predators of boys and girls. One was “Captain” Eamonn Cooke, the convicted pedophile who ran the pirate station Radio Dublin and was a major suspect in young Philip’s disappearance prior to his own death in June of this year.
In their broadest strokes, both the Gibney case cluster and the Cairns individual cold case simply represent the agony of a population that has endured generations-damaging child sexual abuse at the hands of authority figures in a number of institutions, including the Catholic Church and youth swimming.
O’Callaghan told me his own interest in the Philip Cairns case stemmed from the fact that they share a great-grandfather (also named Philip Cairns). But in addition, O’Callaghan said he had been abused by a cleric 15 years before Philip’s disappearance, when Gareth was also 13. O’Callaghan’s abuser was a Franciscan monk based in Offaly in the midlands.
“Perhaps my awful experience at the hands of a predator strengthened my quest for justice for a small kid who was denied a voice by a group of people who still strut their stuff, but deserve after 30 years for the hammer to be at last brought down on their evil, despicable lives,” O’Callaghan said. “The Irish politicians and police force are not interested in discussing any of it or investigating it further.”
According to O’Callaghan, the “pedophile ring” with which Gibney is believed to have associated “scaled the dizziest heights of Dublin society.” (Note: I put the term “pedophile ring” in quotes, and generally try to go light with the word “pedophile” because — notwithstanding its usefulness as journalistic shorthand — it can confuse casual readers as they process reports of some undetermined mixture of criminal sexual misconduct and clinical pathology.) “It included senior police officers, legal professionals, priests, and politicians. It’s probably understandable why none of the various levels of authority want to investigate it, to put it mildly.”
Readers interested in continuing to track Philip Cairns news in the wake of the vigil on the 23rd should follow Gareth O’Callaghan on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gareth.ocallaghan.1.
And looking ahead to our court date on the 28th, I close with the observations of Irish-American Sandra Hamilton, who is supporting O’Callaghan’s investigative work and believes some of the answers on Gibney himself lie closer to home.
As one who came to the U.S. on a green card and understands the process, Hamilton thinks it is unlikely that Gibney simply received his via a lottery category enacted by Congress through those years, in legislation spearheaded by Congressman Brian Donnelly of Massachusetts.
There were thousands more “Donnelly program” applications than green cards, Hamilton said, noting that in her own case it took two tries: “The process involved sending my name and address on one sheet of paper to a federal office in Lincoln, Nebraska. About three months later, in March 1996, I received my letter to say I had won the lottery. I had strict time limits for finalizing an interview at the American embassy and a medical exam by an embassy-approved doctor.”
Gibney’s visa application timeline seems much murkier and more strung out. The partially revealed American files so far show that he received a “certificate of character” from the Irish police in January 1992. (And what the heck is that?) This was ten months prior to the official opening of a criminal investigation of him on molestation charges, but after the allegations had been lodged against him. Sandra Hamilton seems unassailably correct in insisting that Gibney must have been planning his exit well in advance.
The partial disclosures in our FOIA case, from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, also suggest factors in play other than a rigged jump to the front of the lottery line: Gibney may have benefited from an employment visa category, based on an offer of a swim coaching job. (And indeed, Gibney would coach for a short period in suburban Denver, before yet another allegation of sexual misconduct laid bare his past, and he went on a two-decade odyssey of jobs in human resources and in the airline and hospitality industries. He has been tracked most recently to a house in Altamonte Springs, Florida, just north of Orlando.)
At this point, only the U.S. District Court can unlock the George Gibney mystery. And only the people of good conscience in Ireland can mount a reckoning of the fate of young Philip Cairns at the hands of all the George Gibneys.
“The Chief Justice, Her Brother And How George Gibney Got Away,” April 29, 2016, http://www.broadsheet.ie/2016/04/29/the-chief-justice-her-brother-and-how-george-gibney-got-away/
“Unreasonable Delay,” April 29, 2016, http://www.broadsheet.ie/2016/04/29/unreasonable-delay/
“George Gibney’s Green Card,” May 23, 2016, http://www.broadsheet.ie/2016/05/23/george-gibneys-green-card/
“Philip Cairns And A Trail Of Disinformation,” June 14, 2016, http://www.broadsheet.ie/2016/06/14/philip-cairns-and-a-trail-of-disinformation/?utm_source=internal&utm_medium=web&utm_content=popular_posts