Complete chronological headline links to our Gibney series: https://concussioninc.net/?p=10942
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,” https://villagemagazine.ie/index.php/2017/02/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.
PDF of Niall Meehan article is available at:
https://www.academia.edu/31332320/ Join up (free) to download