What is Justice?

I’m writing this unsure if I’ll ever post it, it’ll certainly never appear on Facebook, but I’m trying to get my thoughts in order. Recently I’ve developed an obsession, a quiet one but one which is occupying way too much of my evenings. At least every hour I check in with a particular website looking for an update.

So what’s the website and why am I so obsessed?

It’s the website of an American investigative journalist who also has a mission, or more correctly a number of missions, to address serious wrongdoings in sport. He’s been hugely successful and highlighted many different wrongs in American football and American swimming, resulting in prosecutions and court procedures. In the past few years he has also turned his attention to George Gibney.

Who is Gibney? He’s one of Irelands most notorious paedophiles. He was charged in the early 1990s with twenty seven charges of abusing young swimmers, but got off on a technicality. He also happens to be the person I wrote to when I wrote, ‘To the one who stole my childhood.’

After he ‘got off’ he left Ireland and after a brief spell in Scotland went to the United States where he is believed to be living in Florida. This journalist has made it a mission of his to find out why Gibney was allowed to enter the US when he had charges issued against him, and been allowed to stay there when more victims have since come forward? He will not rest until Gibney is deported and forced to return to Ireland to face the new charges.

Of course most reading would be outraged to think he has escaped justice and would be fully supportive of this journalist.

But most are not me.

I was one of the ‘youngest’ to press charges against Gibney. I reported what he had done to me in 1992, the charges were eleven years old. As most abuse cases are not reported for up to twenty years this was a relatively short period of time, yet the High Court ruled it was too long for him to provide an adequate defence. So he got off.

My second child was only a few weeks old when I heard the courts decision. My heart broke a little and it took many years to recover. A journalist, Johnny Waterson, took our story and with our full co operation named Gibney and published his photo. When I asked the journalist, ‘What if he sues?’ He told me, ‘Let him, then he’ll have to prove he isn’t a child abuser.’ I can never express my gratitude to this journalist for his courage and compassion at that time.

The fall out was enormous and for months the case dominated our newspapers, television and radio. It was a very difficult time, sitting in my car driving my older child to school while listening to everyone discussing my story and others. A story I mostly kept secret. A story that hurt my family so much and which I was struggling to recover from at the time.

This was ‘Before.’ Before people in Ireland even knew what abuse meant. Before the scandals of the church broke. Before it was realised how huge a problem historical child abuse was in this country. Before people who came forward were believed.

However, because we spoke up swimmers in other clubs also came forward to tell their stories and two other coaches were subsequently jailed.

There were many who have said Gibney’s victims never got our day in court or compensation. And they are right, we didn’t. The swimming organisation which didn’t protect us had no obligation to pay out as he’d not been convicted, despite an inquiry vindicating our stories. Nor did they ever say ‘Sorry.’

However, people also say we never got justice, but I’m not so sure about that.

Okay, we never got a chance to stand in a court and let everyone know what he did… but everyone now knows and believes us.

We never got the chance to celebrate knowing he was in jail… but in reality he would probably only be sentenced to a few years and then he’d be free.

In fact if he had gone to court he’d be out by now. He’d be sharing the same sky I live under. This country is so small there is every chance that one day I, or a member of my family would meet him, face to face.

So while this journalist and many others bay for blood I do not. I am content to know he lives in exile, far, far away. I can remain calm when on occasions I think I smell his after shave in a shopping centre, or think a stranger coming towards me looks like him. He can never return to this country as things stand and his reputation has followed him to the United States. Journalists harass him and neighbourhood watch keep an eye on him.

Justice comes in many forms.

I’ve learned to live with the way things are for the past thirty years, I’d not like to imagine what it would be like if it changed… if he did come back here and go to court… if I’d to read about the case every day and relive it all day and night.

So maybe my obsession is understandable as I read the latest tweets,

‘Ireland & United States are getting much closer to a joint reckoning for the freedom of rapist former Irish Olympic swim coach George Gibney to hide in plain sight in Colorado, California, and Florida.’

Or, ‘Time to bring this Gibney nightmare to an end.’

Because in reality this nightmare has gone on for decades and bringing him back to Ireland will not make it end for those of us who were brave enough to speak up but were let down by our court of Justice.

I’ve had enough of him and his legacy and despite knowing that new victims have come forward I selfishly hope this journalist is unsuccessful, but I fear it’s only a matter of time.

Until then I’ll continue to live the life of freedom from Gibney I currently enjoy, while keeping one eye on the efforts of that journalist with the best of intentions.

Update… yesterday  Gibney was spoken about yet again in the Dail. Maureen O Sullivan spoke of the lack of justice for those of us who spoke up 25 years ago in a very different world and despite the years I felt tears rise as the hurt of our voices being silenced by our ‘justice ‘ system was remembered. 

Then Simon Coveny our deputy leader replied reminding her and me that there was no criminal conviction and therefore we had to be careful what we say. 

And all over again we are silenced. And all over again I screamed ‘he raped and abused me don’t tell me I can’t say it happened. ‘

If, as they say there is new evidence I hurt for that victim but I am not convinced they will find justice in Irelands court system.

photo credit: sparkle-motion Justice via photopin (license)

21 thoughts on “What is Justice?

  1. My heart breaks for you Tric and I cry thinking about the abuse you have had to live with all these years. I can understand your anxiety about Gibney ever returning to Ireland. What a strong and brave woman you are.
    In this past week, the Royal Commission into Institutionalised abuse of children has released a series of reports. One was absolutely damning of the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle where the attitude of ‘do nothing’ allowed perpetrators to abuse children for over thirty years. Othe places around Australia have been found to have been concerned more about the Church’s reputation than the safety of children. Yesterday a court case against an Archbishop began in Newcastle where he is charged with concealing information about an abusive priest. The priest has since died, but when I was growing up he was my parish priest and I got to know him very well. He never tired anything with me, thankfully, but yesterday in court a man gave evidence of his abuse and his reporting it to the then priest later Archbishop. I think they want to convict this archbishop to prove concealment is just as serious as denial.
    Take care Tric…

    1. Clerical abuse was rampant here in Ireland and abusers were just moved on to another parish. This country is only beginning to recover from the scandal. Lucky for you he left you alone.
      Thanks for your kind words. I’ve made a great recovery I’m glad to say but it took work. In a way him not being in the country helped.

  2. This has been a problem swept under carpets in so many countries. While I am glad that it has now come out into the open more, I am not sure we have yet learned the best way to handle it, either in law or in how we aid the recovery of victims. One thing I was reminded of though, reading your post, was a comment made when my son’s attacker was sentenced folowing the stabbing… the courts cannot serve justice, they serve only the law. It is not the same thing at all. Perhaps there is more justice in this …

    1. Yes what the judge said in your sons case is so true Sue and sums my thoughts up completely.
      But I’ve got through it once hopefully I’ll do the same again.

  3. tric, i think there is hell on earth for some, and he is one. i applaud the journalists, the locals, and especially the brave ones who came forward to share their story, including you. the cover of time magazine, (which trump said he turned down), for person the the year, is dedicated to all those brave women who spoke up. you, and so many, many more are all there in spirit.

    1. Thank you Beth. Maybe some day I’ll tell my kids I made the cover of Time magazine! More impressive than my story making the Irish news.
      I do think my coming out and others changed our country for the better but sometimes I wish it would all go away.

  4. I get it. All of it. The reason people pursue it, the reason you are where you are with it.

    But no matter what, despite the pains/torments/trauma/etc any victim has/had/carries/deals with or hopefully ‘dealt’ with…… the perpetrator will never EVER be more than what they did. That cannot be fixed/healed/or made up for.

  5. Oh, Tric….I am so so sorry that my country has opened it’s arms to this horrible, despicable pile of “shite” (as you might say?) But I have to tell you that your strength, resilience and courage are the best part of this story. YOU inspire us all. That poor pathetic waste of dna will die leaving nothing in his wake. YOU, though, will leave a legacy of love and joy and power.
    Still, if I could find him and throttle him with these two hands, please know that I would do it!

  6. Tric, I’m so grateful that you have had the courage to share your story, giving others the courage to do the same. It’s time that thousand (or millions) of stories are being spoken and written about, and that we have a complete change of the paradigm that has long allowed men in power to abuse it without consequence. Thank you for your part in this.

    1. Thank you Lucia. I’m not exactly sure why I spoke up to begin with. I’d just had my first child… a girl, and begun to remember so maybe it was that. No matter how hard it’s been I’ll always be glad I spoke up, but it’s difficult that 26 years later this man is still news and my story still in the press.
      Thanks again Lucia. I hope you are doing okay.

      1. Yes, I’m doing well, thanks. Holidays are difficult, with birthdays coming up too, and I’m doing well also…
        I can’t imagine how it must feel to have this story in the news, but it seems that because of the ground-breakers like you, so many are now able to speak up sooner, and hopefully give those courage who need it most.

    1. I don’t think so Mick. For starters his trial would mean the scab off the wound would be picked open and I’m not sure how it would heal.
      He’d not be tried for what he did to me.
      What he did will always be done. I’ve learned to live with my past so in a sense have closed it. Jail for a few years would give me no comfort as opposed to a guarantee of never looking at his face again.

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