by Irvin Muchnick
A prominent Irish-American swimming coach whose ties to George Gibney underscore questions about the role of the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA) in Gibney’s 1990s emigration to the United States, following his indictment on dozens of charges of child sexual molestation, has been removed from the Pipeline Swimming club in Florida’s Tampa Bay area.
In a succession of somewhat cryptic emails to Concussion Inc., Pipeline’s owner and head coach, Rene Piper, said Peter Banks was no longer affiliated with the program. In January this reporter had queried Banks and then Piper regarding what Banks might have done on behalf of Gibney’s permanent residency in this country. Gibney, the Irish Olympic swimming head coach in 1984 and 1988, now has been here for nearly a quarter of a century.
Neither Banks nor Piper responded at the time. But today, seven and a half months later, Piper emailed: “I was honoring [Banks’] request to not respond to you,” but now was communicating since “he is not affiliated with my swim team.”
Banks, who has a complicated coaching history in both Ireland and the U.S., had been with Pipeline since leaving his post as high performance director at Swim Ireland in 2016. Banks is in at least his second stretch of coaching here. According to the biography at ASCA, where he was inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame in 2015, Banks was an assistant women’s coach for the U.S. Olympic swimming team at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney. Banks got that job largely on the strength of his work with swimmer Brooke Bennett, and swimming sources say he had to have become an American citizen in order to qualify for it.
From 1976 to 1988, Banks was an assistant coach at Gibney’s Trojan team in Ireland. Among the swimmers Banks would coach in Florida was at least one Irish athlete very close to Gibney.
In addition, Banks was on the staff at ASCA under executive director John Leonard during the period when Gibney successively secured a diversity lottery visa to move to the U.S. and then did move to the U.S. This was shortly after his 1993 indictment in Ireland got quashed by a controversial Irish Supreme Court ruling that he could not receive a fair trial on the charges, some of which dated back to the 1960s, because of the passage of time.
Last year I settled a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security for documents from Gibney’s immigration file. In the settlement, the government conceded that his 2010 application for citizenship had been rejected after he lied on it in not disclosing his Irish criminal indictment, but added that Gibney was “not removable” from the country as a consequence of this lapse.
One of the key documents in Gibney’s file remains almost completely redacted: a job offer letter from an American swimming team that is suspected to have been engineered by John Leonard, Peter Banks, and/or ASCA. Gibney did coach briefly for the North Jeffco team in Arvada, Colorado, before a 1995 allegation against him, combined with emerging information within the community about his Irish past, triggered the apparent end of his coaching career. Gibney was last seen residing in Altamonte Springs, Florida.
U.S. District Court Senior Judge Charles R. Breyer, whose previous rulings in my favor had spurred the FOIA settlement, expressed puzzlement at the government’s position, at one point stating in court, “We’re not a haven for pedophiles.” Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency that told U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that Gibney was not subject to extradition, now has an office under President Donald Trump that is specifically dedicated to the pursuit of citizens who lied on their citizenship applications — but, apparently, not of permanent resident aliens such as Gibney who failed to attain citizenship after lying.
Irish legislator Maureen O’Sullivan has spearheaded the most recent efforts on behalf of Gibney’s dozens of victims to get the American government to revisit Gibney’s resident status and to facilitate the sharing of investigative materials from the Garda, the Irish national police. In 1998 an Irish government commission, the Murphy Inquiry, found that Gibney’s accusers “were vindicated” by the assembled Garda evidence.
That evidence is known to include an affidavit from the Florida victim of Gibney’s known sex crime on American soil, in 1991 — when Gibney, at a Tampa hotel on a training trip with his Trojans club, raped and impregnated a teen swimmer. The girl was later drugged and taken by an Irish swimming official to England for an abortion.
Earlier this year O’Sullivan met in Washington with Congresswoman Jackie Speier, the California Democrat who has asserted interest in the problem of youth sports coach sexual abuse. O’Sullivan also prevailed upon the new U.S. Center for SafeSport to open an investigation of Gibney. The center told O’Sullivan that it would seek to acquire a secret 1995 report on Gibney by the police in Arvada, Colorado.
This morning, Pipeline Swimming’s Piper emailed me, “Peter Banks is no longer affiliated with PIPELINE Swimming. We have closed his PipelineSwimming.com email address.” Piper then gave me a gmail address for Banks, which I had already used in soliciting comment from him in January.
Asked to elaborate on the departure of Banks, Piper said, “We had strategically chosen for the swimmers’ calendar, not to renew his contract at the end of the long course season and for reasons not to be disclosed. This could change should he decide to break agreements we have.”
I again asked Banks for comment. He has not responded.