George Gibney Cited in New Irish Magazine Article on How Coverage of Non-Catholic Abuses Tends to Be Muted

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Complete chronological headline links to our Gibney series:


by Irvin Muchnick

A  new  article  in  Village,  an  Irish  political-cultural  magazine,  mentions  in  passing  George  Gibney,  the former  Olympic  swim  coach and  fugitive  rapist. It is  instructive  for  followers  on  the  American  side  of  Gibney’s  nearly  quarter-century-long  odyssey  as  a  resident  alien  in  the  United  States  —  the  underlying  narrative  of  Concussion  Inc.’s  current  legal  fight  with  the  Department  of  Homeland  Security,  now  at  the  Ninth  Circuit  Court  of  Appeals,  for  fuller  disclosure  of  Gibney’s  immigration  records.

In  a  piece  later  this  week  I’ll  be  discussing  the  various  ways  the  Village  article,  “Irish  Times  struggles  with non-Catholic  abuse,”  —  by  Niall  Meehan,  faculty  head  of  journalism  and  media  at  Griffith  College  in  Dublin  —  challenges  some  of  the  preconceptions  about  the  institutions  most  commonly  cited  in  sexual  abuse  stories.

But  first  the  Gibney  reference  itself.  Meehan  notes  that  Gibney’s  base  of  operations  was  the  Newpark  School  —  a  Church  of  Ireland,  not  Roman  Catholic,  institution.  (Church  of  Ireland  is  Protestant,  like  the  Episcopals  or  High  Anglicans.)  In  1998  another  Church  of  Ireland  aquatic  center,  at  King’s  Hospital  School,  became  a  key  domino  in  the  Irish  Amateur  Swimming  Association  abuse  scandals  when  Gibney  coaching  colleague  Derry  O’Rourke  pleaded  guilty  to  29  sexual  assault  charges  involving  11  girls.

Meehan  writes  that  a  decade  later,  when  the  school  was  on  trial  for  compensation  to  victims,  the  Irish  Times  had  comprehensive,  day-to-day,  often  front-page  coverage:


“The  trial  judge  ruled  that  the  media  could  not  name  the  King’s  Hospital  swimming  club.  It  would  appear  that  the  Irish  Times  would  not  have  done  so  anyway.  That  is  because  an  accompanying  report  on  George  Gibney,  also  a  serial  swimming  abuser,  failed  to  name  another  Church  of  Ireland  ethos  school,  Newpark  Comprehensive,  and  its  associated  Trojan  swimming  club,  as  a  place  where  Gibney  abused  children.  Interestingly,  the  Irish  Independent  broke  [this] legal  ban,  naming  King’s  Hospital  school  and  pool,  plus  it  named  Gibney  and  Newpark  as  well.

[Irish journalist] Johnny  Watterson  broke  the  Gibney  story  originally  in  the  Sunday  Tribune  on  4  December  1994.  The  following  day[, in major follow-up reports]  the  Irish  Press  and  Independent  named  Gibney,  Newpark  and  Trojan.  In  a  considerably  shorter  report,  the  Irish  Times  declined  to  name  even  Gibney.  The  paper  named  him  a  week  later,  but  still  not  Newpark  or  Trojan.  Afterwards,  Watterson  moved  to  the  Irish  Times.  He  wrote  the  January  1998  Irish  Times  story,  mentioned  above,  that  maintained  the  apparent  Times  policy  of  not  naming  Newpark  or  Trojan.  It  was  a  practice  unique  to  the  Irish  Times,  to  which  Watterson  had  not  been  not  subject  in  the  Tribune.

Later  in  June  1998,  when  reporting  the  findings  of  Roderick  Murphy’s  official [Irish government] inquiry  into  abuse  in  Irish  swimming,  the  paper  had  no  difficulty  naming  O’Rourke,  though  Murphy’s  report  anonymised  him.  The  paper  might  also  have  identified  the  unnamed  [King’s Hospital] school  and  club  where  abuse  took  place,  but  chose  not  to.  One  reporter,  Carol  Coulter,  named  Newpark  as  a  place  where  George  Gibney  committed  his  assaults.  Other  reports  naming  Gibney  (also  anonymised  in  Murphy’s  report)  avoided  identifying  the  Newpark  school  swimming  pool  or  Trojan  club.  Ten  years  later,  in  2008,  after  victims  sued  successfully,  the  paper  finally  reported  that  O’Rourke’s  abuse  took  place  at  the  King’s  Hospital  swimming  pool.”

This  is  a  nuance  lost  on  many  casual  readers,  especially  on  this  side  of  the  Atlantic.  As  I  said,  more  thoughts  from  here  shortly  on  the  possible  implications  of  all  this  for  Gibney’s  long-term  success  at  hiding  in  plain  sight.


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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick