Northern Ireland

Former Crossmaglen GAA official Thomas McKenna sentenced to 16 years in prison over sexual abuse

Former GAA official Thomas McKenna
Former GAA official Thomas McKenna

A former treasurer of Crossmaglen Rangers has today been sentenced to 16 years in prison after pleading guilty to a litany of sex crimes against young boys dating back over three decades.

Thomas McKenna, (62), with a given address at Maghaberry Prison, was sentenced today at Laganside Court over 162 sexual abuse offences including serious sexual assault, indecent assault, voyeurism and possession of an indecent image of a child.

His offending spanned a 30-year period from 1989 to 2018 and involved 23 male victims, ranging from 14 to 39 years of age. 

He will be placed on the Sex Offenders' Register indefinitely.

Following today's sentencing, his victims issued a statement saying: “We thank Her Honour Judge Patricia Smyth for the sentence handed down earlier today.

“As a group, we sincerely thank our families, our community and the members of the Crossmaglen Rangers Club for the unwavering loyalty, support and care you have provided us.

“We want to thank the police service for the empathy and swiftness in which they dealt with the crimes committed against us from when they were first informed almost five years ago.

“In addition, we also wish to thank the Public Prosecution Service and the prosecution team for their professionalism and diligence in preparing the case for Court and ensuring we received the guilty pleas for the litany of crimes committed against us when we were children. And most importantly, to ensure this individual will never be a part of our community again.

“While there were many difficult days as we relived the crimes committed against us, we as a group are immensely proud of the strength, dignity and unity we've displayed throughout this process to get the justice we deserve and ensure that the pain and suffering inflicted upon us will not be felt by another generation in our community.

“We urge anyone else who has suffered similarly to take confidence from our journey and to reach out to the relevant authorities.

“To John, Bernie at Ulster GAA, and Jill, the investigating officer within the police service; thank you for hearing our voices. Thank you for the support, comfort and reassurance you have provided us throughout this process. Each one of you went above and beyond your call of duty.

“We will be forever indebted to you for everything you have done for us, individually and collectively. We hope your families are very proud of you.

“Finally, we request that our privacy and that of our community is respected.”

Crossmaglen Rangers and the GAA also issued a statement this afternoon.

"The GAA together with Crossmaglen Rangers thank Ms Justice Smyth for today’s sentencing of Mr. Thomas McKenna after what has been a trying four and a half years for the victims, their families, our club and the wider Crossmaglen community since his arrest," the joint statement said.

“Crossmaglen Rangers and GAA President Larry McCarthy wish to state that this conviction was only possible because of the courage and determination of those individuals who reported their concerns and sought assistance. Your actions have made our club and community safer and for this, we owe you a huge debt of gratitude.

“As a club and as an Association, our hearts were broken when we learned about the horrific abuse suffered by children and young people within our community. We are extremely saddened that one of our members used his many positions of trust, within our community to cause serious harm.

“To the victims; we are deeply sorry. Your journey has been a difficult one and your strength to stay the course and see this case through to its legal conclusion is testament to your character and recognition of the support received. To your parents and families, we are sorry and we thank you for your unwavering support. We recognise that your lives have been severely impacted when you too learned about the abuse of a loved one.

“We wish to assure you that the GAA will continue to support you and your families on an ongoing basis.

“We would like to acknowledge the professionalism, compassion and sensitivity shown by statutory agencies including the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Social Services and the Public Prosecution Service. We thank them for their support over the past four and a half years. The impact of this cooperation has been far reaching and will have a lasting legacy in our community.”

"The GAA prides itself on how our current robust Child Safeguarding guidance and practices, developed in accordance with legislative requirements and Association rules, are implemented.

"An independent review of this case has been commissioned by the GAA, and while we await the outcomes, the Association and our constituent units shall implement the recommendations that emerge, following the review process.

"Should any person wish to make contact with the review team they may do so at

"We urge anyone else who has been abused by Mr McKenna to contact the Police on 101, in an emergency call 999. Anyone who is affected by this event may avail of services provided by NSPCC (0808 800 5000), Nexus on (02890 326803 or 02871 260566) or Lifeline. 0808 808 8000 for support.

"We respectfully request that the victims and their families now be granted privacy, time and space to recover."

Detective Chief Inspector Kerry Brennan said: “Thomas McKenna was a respected and influential member of the Crossmaglen community, who used his positions of trust to gain access to young males to carry out the litany of abuse as outlined in court today.”

“His offending spanned over a lengthy 30-year period.

“He has caused long-lasting psychological damage to his victims and their families and I’ve no doubt that learning of the severity of his offending today will ricochet through the Crossmaglen community.

“Predators of this type are incredibly manipulative, and invest a lot of time building trust and embedding themselves within communities to carry out their offending under the radar. Hidden in plain sight.

“Our thoughts today are with the victims that this man preyed on, and abused for so many years. It takes huge courage to speak out and break the cycle of abuse.

“We would like to commend them for coming forward and working with our dedicated detectives. We would continue to encourage anyone who has experienced any form of sexual abuse to contact police on 101, or in an emergency call 999.

“Please don’t suffer in silence fearing you won’t be believed. We will listen to you and we will act. It doesn’t matter when the abuse happened, we will still investigate and work to bring abusers before the courts as we have done today.”