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The allegations centre around Waterpark College in Waterford city. Alamy Stock Photo
Child Protection

Tusla didn't contact man over child abuse claim for 8 years as 'no worker was available'

Fourteen men came forward this week to allege they were abused by a now deceased teacher and guidance counsellor at the school.

A MAN ALLEGEDLY abused by a schoolteacher in Waterford city has said he wants answers for how it took Tusla eight years to respond to a notification about what had happened at the school.

The agency told the man that it had “no worker available” at the time in 2008 to investigate Waterpark College’s formal notification of an allegation of retrospective child abuse, and offered him an apology for the “unacceptable delay” in contacting him.

Lee Deady, who attended the secondary school in the 1990s, told The Journal he found the agency’s actions “mind-boggling” and emphasised how people could have suffered further because of the agency’s “inability to act faster”.

The social care worker took a civil case against the school and received a settlement of €60,000, having alleged that the abuse started in 1996 when he was in second year and continued up until his Leaving Cert.

Deady is one of 14 men who came forward this week to allege they were abused by the now deceased teacher and guidance counsellor Thomas Meehan during their time at Waterpark in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. 

Their campaign for answers was reported on this week for the first time by local radio station WLR, where they told broadcaster Damien Tiernan that the government needs to compel schools and religious orders to disclose all files as part of their forthcoming inquiry into abuse in schools.

According to Tusla’s letter to Deady in November 2016, seen by The Journal, Waterpark College had contacted Tusla over eight years earlier.

Deady said this was around the same time he made a complaint to gardaí.

The letter said: “Information was received to our department in May 2008 from Waterpark College in relation to an allegation you made against Mr Thomas Meehan.

“Unfortunately there has been no worker to deal with allegations of retrospective allegations of abuse.”

It added that a “dedicated team” had been formed to access disclosures of historical abuse.

“I apologise for the unacceptable delay in contacting you and I hope my contact does not cause you distress,” it said.

Tusla contacted Deady on 29 November 2016, which he said was a few weeks before a civil case against the school got under way in court.

The agency informed him that if he did not respond by 16 December, a fortnight later, then it would “assume [he] did not want to engage” in the investigation.  

Deady criticised this approach. “After eight years without any communication, I was then given a two-week timeframe to respond to Tusla or the case would be shut for good,” he said.

“Even in the way it was conducted, Tusla put a timeframe that if I don’t contact them, they’re closing the case and that’s that – after them not contacting me for almost nine years.” 

lee and john deady Lee Deady and his father John. Damien Tiernan / WLR Damien Tiernan / WLR / WLR

Waterford gardaí told The Journal they received a “number of complaints” between 2009 and 2011 which alleged abuse carried out by “an individual” in previous decades. These were followed by a further complaint received in 2019.

“All complaints were investigated and a number of files were forwarded to the DPP,” gardaí said.

“The DPP returned with a direction of no prosecution in all cases. An Garda Síochána does not comment on correspondence with the Director of Public Prosecutions.”

When contacted, Waterpark College said it condemns child abuse and is committed to high levels of child protection. 

The school said: “Waterpark College unequivocally condemns any form of child abuse and is committed to the best standards of child protection.  

“We cannot comment on any individual cases as it may prejudice due process. However, we would encourage anybody who has concerns to report them to the relevant authorities.”

Tusla told The Journal that it does not discuss individual cases, but said it has seen a significant increase in the focus on retrospective cases in recent years, with the agency adding that there are “many adults making disclosures in respect of their childhood”.

The agency was formed in 2014 when child and family functions previously under the HSE were transferred to a new standalone agency. 

Much progress has been made in this area in recent years, both on consistency and in timelines.

“Anyone who wishes to disclose details relating to retrospective abuse can contact their local Tusla Social Work Team. We are absolutely mindful of the trauma and emotional distress experienced by many people in this particular context of our work and this informs our approach to the greatest extent possible.”

Deady said the case still impacts him to this day.

“I’m still on medication for it, it absolutely never goes away. I can’t even bring my daughter to the park where I know I spent three or four years of my life hiding. It’s all negative reminders. I still carry it.

“I’m never going to get an apology from Meehan, he’s dead, he’s gone. But I certainly want answers from the gardaí, I want answers from Tusla.”

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