Christian Brother Donal Dunne, died in 2003

Febuary 1999

Two years for abuse teacher

A RETIRED christian brother teacher was jailed for two years yesterday for sexually abusing boys at two midlands schools. He has admitted similar offences at four other schools.

The Circuit Court in Tullamore, Co Offaly was told 78-year-old Donal Dunne had acknowledged abusing boys at two Dublin city primary schools and at schools in counties Longford and Westmeath.

Dunne of Portarlington, Co Offaly was before the court for sentencing on 16 counts of indecent assaults committed against six boys between 1965 and 1969 at Walsh Island National School, Co Offaly and similar offences committed against a boy at the Presentation Sisters Secondary School in Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny in the early 1970s.

He had a previous conviction for sexual abusing a 12-year-old boy in 1995 and Judge Anthony Kennedy said it was thoroughly alarming that Dunne committed this offence when aged 74.


It also emerged during the hearing that Dunne was sexually abused as a child. His counsel William Fennelly said it was a feature of such cases that all too often the abuser was a victim of abuse at some stage in his own life.

Det Sgt Michael Dalton, Tullamore said contact was made with him following publication of Dunne’s name after hearing in November of a case involving three victims who had been abused by defendant at schools in Co Longford and Dublin.

The court heard that one boy, aged 12 at the time, was asked to go to a church adjacent to the school to pick up some items but was followed by Dunne who proceeded to sexually abuse him in the choir loft. He abused the boy on two other occasions in a sport’s changing room asking his victim to try on togs, then removing the boy’s clothes before fondling him.

State prosecutor Dara Foynes said quite a lot of additionalactivities on accused’s part had come to notice following media coverage and publication of his name last November.

The court also heard Dunne acknowledged responsibility for abuses he committed at four other schools since he pleaded guilty: at Griffith Avenue and St James Street, Dublin; Mullingar CBS, Co Westmeath and Lanesboro National School, Co Longford.

However, extracts from a psychological assessment report read out by Judge Anthony Kennedy revealed accused had “no regrets” for what he did. It also said he would not survive long in prison.

In effect, said the judge, the only real mitigating factor was Dunne pleaded guilty.

But Mr Fennelly said in mitigation his client made the admissions of abuses at other schools openly and at some peril to himself.

The court heard that a Garda investigation is under way into a prank played on Dunne in which, accused claimed, he was phoned by a person pretending to be Detective Dalton, asking that he bring £10,000 cash to the county registrar’s office in Mullingar.

Passing sentence, Judge Kennedy said defendant had a history of a protracted and premeditated campaign of sexual molestation.

He exploited the children’s innocence and vulnerability resulting in obvious short term and long-term damage, and all done for his own perversion and sexual excitement.

He sentenced Dunne to two years imprisonment and refused leave to appeal.

Retired, but even then he would not stop

SCHOOL principal Donal Dunne was a teacher for 45 years during which time he destroyed the innocence of schoolboys trusted into his care at as many as six schools.

But it was a sexual assault on a 12-year-old boy committed long after his retirement that finally caused the former Christian Brother’s past to catch up with him.

That incident happened only four years ago when Dunne, married but without a family, sexually abused a young boy whose family he had befriended. The matter was prosecuted in 1996 and soon after a victim from his days at Walsh Island National School decided to call time on the sexually depraved teacher.

Victims of the Portarlington, Co Laois based offender were left isolated and vulnerable throughout their ordeal and attempts to raise the matter with Dunne’s superiors were at all times dismissed.

One 13-year-old taught by Dunne in Co Kilkenny was first suspended, then expelled from the school after complaining to school authorities.

Donal Dunne’s pattern of sexual abuses was as cunning as it was heinous, with the same modus operandi in all cases.


Once his victim was identified, Dunne would ingratiate himself with the boy’s family or mentors, gain their confidence and inevitably attempt to visit himself on his intended victim.

“He was very cunning and very manipulative,” said a victim from his days at a school run by the Presentation nuns in Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny.

Donal Dunne began his teaching career as a 21-year-old Christian Brother at Scoil Mhuire, Marino, Dublin in July 1940. He moved on to CBS, Mullingar in July 1947, then to James Street, Dublin in July 1953.

He left the Brothers in 1957 and was appointed a lay teacher at Lanesboro National School, Co Longford on May 13 that year. He remained there until September 1960 when he transferred to Ballyfermot where he taught at two schools, including Scoil Banrian Na nAingeal, before returning to the countryside in January 1964 to take up an appointment at Rath National School, Brittas, Co Laois.

His fateful appointment to Walsh Island near Tullamore took effect from July 1st 1966. There he proceeded to abuse a number of boys six of whom made the statements two years ago that brought about his conviction.

Matters came to a head at Walsh Island in May 1969 when parents became aware of the abuses.

Dunne left the school suddenly but with what Garda sources confirmed as a “glowing reference” from the then parish priest and chairman of school board of management in his hand.

With his past history seemingly buried and with the aid of the reference that effectively amounted to a licence to continue his abuse, he took up employment at a secondary school in Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny run by the Presentation Sisters.

There again, the perverted teacher was unable to contain his twisted sexual urges. At the end of six years he chose yet another young victim … but the wrong one.

“He stepped on the wrong toe,” another victim from the Kilkenny school told the Irish Independent. “He followed this young boy home and pushed him against the wall of the technical school. But the young fellow told his father, who went straight to the school authorities and told them they had 12 hours to get rid of Donal Dunne.”

Like Walsh Island, Dunne’s lechery at the Kilkenny school did not catch up with him until 1996 when a victim since emigrated made a statement to gardai after watching a TV documentary on sex abuse in Kilkenny. Some 27 names of boys at the school were handed over to gardai, 20 of whom were affected one way or the other, either from sexual or physical abuse by their feared teacher.

“Of the 20 approached, only two were prepared to sign a statement,” the victim who made the initial complaint recalled. “All 20 admitted they were abused, or knew of abuses. But none were prepared to sign because they didn’t want to bring it all back, or it could affect their lives today. I have had several calls over the last three months from old school pals. Some are suffering traumatically.”

The victim himself lived in denial for 20 years. He led a normal and very successful life but all that changed when he decided to confronted his dark, harrowing past. Two years ago he was happily married with three children, had a very successful career with an international corporate body, enjoying a $125,000 annual salary. Now his marriage is gone, as is his career.


Today he gets counselling to help him battle the memory of a three-year sexual abuse ordeal but still admits he is very much in denial and does not truly believe what happened to him.

“I lived for the last 20 years without ever thinking about it. Since I made the statement I have a massive sleep disorder which has been determined by a doctor as sleep avoidance. Today the sun is shining for me, but many days it doesn’t.

“Rationally, I am coming to terms with it. I respect the people I am taking to about it but emotionally I cannot bring myself to accept it and don’t actually believe it.

“No one believed us at the time either. I reported it to a nun that I got on well with. But do you know what she said when I told her: she said `Go away boy, you must be possessed.’

“Basically what he did was he stole the innocence of these children. The experts tell me that what I need to happen is to receive a public apology. They say that will help.”