Northern Ireland news

Man 'paid £50,000' over St Columb's College sex abuse claims

Terry Doran claims he suffered sexual abuse at the hands of Raymond Gallagher, a former vice-principal at St Columb's College in Derry.
Connla Young

A MAN who was a victim of the Catholic Church mother and baby home scandal has revealed how he was also paid £50,000 over claims he was sexually abused at one of the north's best known grammar schools.

Terry Doran, from Derry, last night revealed the full extent of abuse he claims to have suffered at the hands of Raymond Gallagher, a former vice-principal at St Columb's College in the city.

In a disturbing story of life-long ill treatment at the hands of the Catholic Church, the 59-year-old sets out how he was a victim of the cruel mother and baby home scheme before a Church official later rejected his claims of abuse.

His alleged abuser at St Columb's, who is believed to have died in 2007, was a well-known music and Irish language teacher at the prestigious college.

In 2015 Mr Doran received a £50,000 settlement after taking a case against the college and Raymond Gallagher.

According to Mr Doran, Gallagher continued teaching at the Derry college for years after he made serious sexual abuse allegations in the late 1970s.

It is believed Gallagher, from Derry, left his post at the school in the early 1990s.

Mr Doran has now waived anonymity to call for St Columb's College to be included in an ongoing historical abuse probe headed by former PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie.

He believes the college and Catholic Church authorities must confirm the scale of abuse inflicted on children at the college by Gallagher.

During Gallagher's time at the college thousands of children from Derry and further afield passed through its hallowed doors.

The college counts priests, poets, playwrights and peacemakers among its past pupils.

High-profile figures who attended the school include former Nobel laureates Seamus Heaney and John Hume and acclaimed dramatist Brian Friel.

Other notables include Archbishop Eamon Martin and former Bishop of Derry Edward Daly.

Archbishop Martin also served as president of the college between 2000-2008.

Mr Doran believes Gallagher preyed on children he viewed as vulnerable and easy targets.

He said he was assaulted over a four-year period until around 1978 at both the school's Bishop Street campus, where young children attended, and the main school building located on the Buncrana Road.

Mr Doran last night described how he was groomed by Gallagher and repeatedly assaulted in classrooms and the office of the school president.

In statements made to the PSNI as an adult, Mr Doran said he sometimes prayed as he was being subjected to some of the most shocking forms of sexual abuse.

He claims that Gallagher told him that if he revealed to anyone what was happening he would be returned to care and that his father would go to jail.

The cycle of abuse eventually ended when Mr Doran, who served as an altar boy, told a local priest, Fr James Rooney, what was happening during confessions and was advised by the compassionate cleric to tell his parents.

His father then raised the matter directly with then school president, Monsignor James Coulter, who has since died.

"We went into the front office and that James Coulter, the president, was there," he said.

"My da could not say the words and I had to do it - 'there's a teacher doing bad things, he is sexually abusing me'," he told the priest.

He said the clergyman immediately rejected his claims.

"He said 'we'll have no more of this nonsense talk and anyway it does not affect his ability as a teacher, now, go back to your class'," he said.

The frightened 14-year-old was also told not to repeat the allegations about Gallagher if he wanted to remain a pupil at the college.

Mr Doran said that when he later met Gallagher in the school the teacher taunted him.

"I met Gallagher in the corridor and he said 'I told you nobody would believe you', adding that 'there's nothing you can do about it'," he said.

Mr Doran said that because the Troubles were raging across the north raising allegations with the police was not an option.

He added his father later felt hopeless when faced with challenging the Catholic Church, a powerful institution at the time.

"He said 'I can't take these people on, I can't take the whole system on'," Mr Doran recounts.

The victim believes he was singled out by Gallagher because he was viewed as vulnerable due to his background.

"He targeted me because I was adopted," he said.

"He said I will get you put back into care because you are adopted.

"He knew I was adopted and he played on that."

After leaving St Columb's College early without any qualifications, Mr Doran eventually made his way to England where by his own admission he lost his way.

Caught up in a cycle of drink and drugs, he eventually fell foul of the law.

In 1988 he received a 16-year sentence for conspiracy to commit robbery and possession of firearms and was released from prison seven years later.

"Looking back and doing research about what happened, you think, that's why I went crazy," he said.

He later ran a hotel before returning to Ireland.

Mr Doran believes the abuse suffered by him had a direct impact on his life experience revealing he later suffered from complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"I never stood a chance when I went there (St Columb's)," he said.

"I should have gone on to school, done 'O' and 'A' levels and should have gone to university... whereas I went crazy in England, working on building sites because I had no qualifications.

"It totally changed my whole life."

Mr Doran is bitter about the role of the Catholic Church.

"It's a complete closed shop, an old boy network, systematic abuse, physical and mental and they get away with it," he said.

"The Catholic Church were a law onto themselves and answerable to no-one."

Mr Doran was born at Marianvale mother and baby home in Newry, Co Down, in 1962 after his unmarried and pregnant birth mother moved there.

Court papers show that at the time he was christened James Joseph Mitchell.

He explains that within months he was taken from his mother against her will and brought to a second care home across the border in Co Donegal.

During a 2019 court case against The Good Shepherd Sisters, who ran the home, it was claimed that his mother's signature was forged to facilitate the move without her consent.

He was later adopted by his loving parents Tony and Anna and raised in the Creggan.

Mr Doran didn't meet his birth mother, Alice McCausland, again until 2010 - 46 years after they had been separated.

He revealed that when he first met her she told him: "I never gave you away".

"'I fed you one night and came down (the next morning) and you were gone'," he said.

He said that his birth mother added that she never agreed to "give" him away and that he was "taken" before being "given a new name and shipped back in (to the north) again".

Mr Doran later moved to Omagh in Co Tyrone in order to be close to Ms McCausland, who died in 2017.

He believes the life-long burden of the treatment and abuse he suffered at the hands of the Catholic Church has cast a long shadow.

"The Church was there from the adoption and when I get to the age of 10 I think I'm OK," he said.

"Then a predatory paedophile teaches you and tells you you are going back into care and threatens your father.

"They think that they have got you and they say nobody will ever believe you and that was proven."

His solicitor Kevin Winters, of KRW Law, last night said Mr Doran "will be eligible for the pending redress scheme for survivors of mother and baby homes."

He said that he has been asked that Mr Doran's case be included in the caseload of an interdepartmental working group on Baby Homes, Magdalene Laundries and Historical Clerical Child Abuse, which is chaired by Ms Gillespie.

Mr Winters said there are similarities in the issues highlighted in Mr Doran's case and how the Diocese of Dromore has dealt with the activities of Malachy Finegan, a former priest who is alleged to have abused children at St Colman's College in Newry.

"There are obvious parallels here with the Diocese of Dromore's disastrous oversight of the now deceased paedophile Malachy Finegan," he said.

"A combination of legal and journalistic agitation helped expose the Church's role in suppressing the truth about Finegan.

"Cases are still coming forward over four years after the scandal first surfaced in November 2017."

Mr Winters praised the stance taken by Mr Doran.

"It remains to be seen just how far this one goes but already we see the emergence of an uncomfortable systemic pattern," he said.

"I commend Terry's bravery in stepping forward to tell his story.

 

"History shows such stories are rarely in isolation but sadly are usually part of a much wider sinister picture."

A spokesperson for The Executive Office said: “The Inter-Departmental Working Group is taking forward an in-depth research project on historical clerical child abuse.

"A reference group including representatives of victims and survivors of clerical child abuse has been established to ensure the research is grounded in their lived experience.

"Researchers will engage with the reference group throughout the course of this work, including hearing their views on the scope of the research and how this issue should be dealt with going forward.”

St Columb's College declined to comment when contacted.

The Catholic diocese of Derry also declined to comment.

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