Hundreds more people who were abused at schools run by the Spiritans are expected to come forward.

A significant number of abuse survivors have already done so, with the number set to rise dramatically.

A press conference earlier on Wednesday was told that 38 people posted reports of abuse on a dedicated Facebook page.

Independent experts have now been appointed to engage with victims and survivors.

The man leading the process, Tim Chapman, has said those who have already come forward are just the tip of the iceberg.

“Some of the stories would just break your heart,” he said.

“Just the physicality, to a certain extent, of what happened – they remember it as if it was yesterday. The smell, the touch – all that is still stored in their 12-year-old brain.

“All stories were different…a couple of the ones I met their lives were really just wrecked.

“Others on the surface were quite successful; if you met them you thought ‘He’s doing well, he’s got everything’.

“Once they start talking, that 12-year-old child comes out again and you can see they haven’t got over it”.

‘Tip of the iceberg’

He said the opening up of the process will likely see more people coming forward.

“I’ve met 20 and I suspect that’s the tip of the iceberg – that 20 were all a group of boys who were at Blackrock at the same time,” he said.

“Almost all in one year or maybe one year below… so that’s just like a thin slice, and we don’t even know if in that year has everybody come forward?

“It’s going to be opened up now to all the years, going right back, and all the other schools that the Spiritans have governance over,” he said.

“I’m actually quite anxious that there’s going to be an avalanche… but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was hundreds.

“It just seems so systemic that these men were allowed to get away with it, almost with impunity,” he added.

‘They had free access’

A former pupil of a boarding school for boys in Dublin said many of his former classmates wish they could turn back time to stop the abuse that happened.

Willow Park in Blackrock is one the schools controlled by the Spiritans were the abuse happened.

Corry McMahon was abused as a 12-year-old at the school, and he said priests seemed to have been able to do what they wanted.

“There were priests in the school that treated Willow Park like a playground,” he said.

“They had free access, their superiors knew – had to have known – what was going on, moved them around.

“They had easy access; they could get you into a classroom and do what they wanted to do.

“Thye did it in a classroom with 28 witnesses, that was the modus operandi,” he added.

Renewed appeal

An Garda Síochána has again appealed to anyone who wants to report a crime relating to Spiritan schools to contact them.

A dedicated e-mail address has been set up at GNPSB_SCMU@garda.ie

Gardaí say anyone contacting them will receive personal contact and are inviting anyone who was the victim of such abuse – or who has information likely to assist an investigation into such abuse – to come forward.

For the purpose of reporting, the following options are available:

  • By e-mailing GNPSB_SCMU@garda.ie
  • By phoning the Sexual Crime Management Unit on 01-666-3430 or 01-666-3435
  • By phoning the Garda Child Sexual Abuse Reporting Line on 1800-555-222. This is a confidential and free service available 24/7
  • Calling to your local Garda Station

Anyone affected by issues raised in this article can contact One on Four on 01-662-4070 or e-mail info@oneinfour.ie

Additional reporting: Jack Quann

Main image: Left to right: John Coulter, Corry McMahon and Louis Hoffman at a joint news briefing with the Spiritans at the RDS in Dublin, where they announced a restorative justice process for all those who have suffered abuse in Spiritan schools in Ireland. Picture by: Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie