by Irvin Muchnick
Concussion Inc. has reported the mystery of a partial skeleton found in a neighborhood of Dublin’s South City Centre. There is speculation that the bones — so far determined only to be those of a young person from decades ago — could belong to a 13-year-old who vanished in 1986. See “Possible New Evidence in Case of Philip Cairns, Long-Time Missing Irish Boy, Carries Reminder of the Big-Picture Stakes of the George Gibney End Game,” May 14, https://concussioninc.net/?p=14493.
The speculation is intensified by a possibility promoted by a number of voices in Ireland, led by retired radio personality Gareth O’Callaghan, who says he was himself a youth victim of molestation at the hands of a ring of well-connected perpetrators. O’Callaghan believes the Cairns case points to a larger, agonizing, and unacknowledged national history of sexual abuse by powerful players who were enabled by a crony-driven justice system.
And all this, in turn, reflects on the continuing quest for accountability in the case of George Gibney, the former Irish Olympic swimming coach, who has resided in the United States for a quarter of a century. In an ebook published last year, I call Gibney the most notorious at-large sex criminal in the history of global sports.
So much is still to be learned about the remains discovered last month near Lower Rathmines Road. But there’s no time to lose in positing where an identification might take us. The Irish broadcast company Second Captains, in partnership with the British Broadcasting Corporation, is about to launch a 10-part podcast series on Gibney. If form holds for the Irish (and for mainstream media efforts generally), this production, while poised to elevate awareness of the Gibney matter for a new generation of listeners, will be too shy in pushing the full range of connections to this single evil player.
That’s what we’re here for.
First, let me explain what I mean when I say there could be a Philip Cairns-George Gibney nexus. I don’t mean that there exists evidence that Gibney was personally involved in abusing or kidnapping or murdering this boy. I do mean that there is credible reason to wonder if harm might have been visited upon Philip by a member of a social group with which Gibney also was believed to be involved.
For a great deal of this information, corroboration is open. The process of uncovering Cairns-Gibney commonalities became more urgent last year, however, when a source told me that the coach had been associated with the same ring vaguely implicated in the Cairns case. And then last month, whether coincidentally or not in terms of the new skeletal evidence, this source committed suicide.
According to a 2002 story about the Philip Cairns mystery in News of the World, the now-defunct British tabloid, a large reward for information about his disappearance was put up by a rich businessperson, who said that a pedophile ring was suspected of having buried the boy’s body “at a development site.”
The location of last month’s discovery would qualify as such a site. Furthermore, it is a spot steeped in Irish history.
The place is called Lissenfield House. It was the family home of Richard Mulcahy, who, during the guerrilla war for independence, took over as commander-in-chief of the Irish Republican Army following the 1922 assassination of Michael Collins, chair of the provisional government. Mulcahy and his wife Mary Josephine “Min” Ryan were settled at Lissenfield for security reasons. The house was right next to Portobello Barracks, an insurgents’ army base.
Mulcahy remained a major political figure throughout the years of the Irish Free State, until 1937, and subsequently in the Republic of Ireland. He rose to the leadership of the Fine Gael party, and from 1948 to 1951 was minister of education in the government of Taoiseach (Prime Minister) John A. Costello.
Mulcahy and Ryan raised six children and lived at Lissenfield until at least 1966. Mulcahy died in 1971.
One of their sons, Risteard Mulcahy, continued to reside at the family home. He was a celebrity in his own right: chief of cardiology at St. Vincent’s Hospital, an anti-smoking campaigner and a physical fitness and bicycling enthusiast, and author of numerous books. These included a biography of his father and a sometimes painfully confessional memoir about his own two marriages and love life.
On December 12, 1987, under the headline “The General’s house for sale,” the Irish Independent reported: “A considerable piece of Irish history will soon be hitting the Dublin property market.”
At auction, Dr. Mulcahy set a floor asking price of £350,000 for Lissenfield House and what the Independent described as its two-acre setting of “superb gardens,” tended to with “the greenest fingers.” I estimate this to equate to something over $1 million in U.S. currency in 2020.
The old Lissenfield estate was subdivided into modern apartments and condos. Today, I am told, they are occupied mostly by students and younger residents.
Risteard Mulcahy died at 93 in 2016. The mystery bones discovered last month were at a waste ground site on the property.
According to Gareth O’Callaghan, the Irish radio figure, a ring of abusers congregated at a club of “sea anglers,” as recreational boat fishermen call themselves in Ireland.
In another piece of information related by the source from last year who recently took his own life, George Gibney associated with a crowd at the Forty Foot promontory at Sandycove Beach, on the southern tip of Dublin Bay. Readers of Ulysses by James Joyce will recall that Forty Foot was the all-male bathing spot, with a gentlemen’s swimming club, featured in the earliest peregrinations of the protagonist Leopold Bloom. It’s in all the Bloomsday tourist guides; the Joyce Tower and Museum is nearby. In more recent years, girls and women have infiltrated Forty Foot.
In one of the many connections that prove only that Ireland is a much smaller country than the U.S. and thus conducive to seemingly endless cross-reference, the fictional Leopold Bloom lived in Rathfarnham, the South Dublin district near Lissenfield. As would Philip Cairns and his family. As would two of Gibney’s top colleagues in Irish swimming, who actually got convicted of sexually abusing some of their athletes and went to prison: Frank McCann and Derry O’Rourke. (McCann did hard time for murder: he burned down his house, with his wife and baby girl inside, in order to conceal knowledge of his rape and impregnation of an underage swimmer.)
But first things first:
Whose partial skeleton was that on Lower Rathmines? And where will the answer lead us in unraveling the fate of Philip Cairns, and elusive justice and accountability for George Gibney?