by Irvin Muchnick
News outlets in Ireland are reporting that Garda Síochána, the national police force, forwarded to the country’s director of public prosecutions information for a new criminal investigation of George Gibney, the former Irish Olympic swimming coach who, as a resident alien in the United States for the last 29 years, qualifies for the title of most notorious at-large sex criminal in sports history.
Because of the vagueness of law enforcement communications in Ireland – some of it to protect the integrity and fairness of the process, some of it a shield against official accountability – it is hard to know whether to label this the second or third or fourth iteration of DPP consideration or reconsideration of old and/or new allegations against Gibney.
In the most specific of the Irish media reports, the RTÉ network said the file sent to the DPP is a “recommendation that Gibney be charged with more than 50 criminal offences.”
The original prosecution of the coach, on dozens of charges of molestations of minor athletes in his charge, collapsed due to a controversial 1994 Irish Supreme Court statute of limitations ruling.
The most plausible interpretation of the newest tea leaves is that entirely new charges are on the DPP’s plate right now – not a decision about whether to take a new run at the original charges on the basis of arguing against the ’94 legal finding that the passage of time had compromised Gibney’s right to a fair trial.
This, in turn, leads to speculation that the new cases emerged from the renewed attention to all things Gibney brought about by the 2020 podcast series Where Is George Gibney?, a co-production of the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Irish media company Second Captains.
There’s also a chance – though I’d evaluate it as slim – that the new surge of activity includes an allegation of a woman that Gibney fondled her in 1982, when she was 11, during an informal encounter at the swimming pool of what was then called the Burlington Hotel in Dublin. This woman, whom I masked with the name “Julia,” told her story at this site in 2017. A Garda detective sergeant, Jonathan Hayes (who today has the title of inspector), contacted Julia through me, and in 2020 Julia told me she was interested in filing a formal police complaint at long last.
Since then, my communications with Julia have been sporadic and I have no direct knowledge of what has happened with her case. By coincidence, a week before today’s news development on a potential Gibney prosecution 2.0, I asked Inspector Hayes if there was any publicly permissible new information on the Julia matter. Over the years, Hayes had made it clear that he couldn’t comment on an open case, so this time I framed the question merely as one of whether the case – Garda National Protective Services reference number DVG.88606-15 – had been closed.
Hayes deferred to his colleague David B. Connolly, a detective sergeant in the Sexual Crime Management Unit. Last Friday, Connolly emailed me, “I cannot comment on any criminal investigations.”
The Gibney news coincides with the completion of my next book for ECW Press, UNDERWATER: The Greed-Soaked Tale of Sexual Abuse in USA Swimming and Around the Globe, which will be published next year. Over the next months, prior to forwarding the material to the printer, the publisher and I will be scrambling to make the book’s Gibney content as up-to-date as possible. UNDERWATER’s 17 chapters include two dedicated to the Gibney story: Chapter 13, “George Gibney – Most Notorious At-Large Sex Criminal in Sports History,” and Chapter 14, “Gibney Slips Away Again.”
As readers of this space know, I have had both positive and negative things to say about the 2020 BBC podcast and producer-narrator Mark Horgan. If it turns out that Where Is George Gibney? was responsible for bringing this monster to justice, I’ll tip my hat.