‘Last Week We Could Not Report That A Trial Was Even Taking Place’


From top: Brother John Gibson in the 1970s; Gibson in today’s Irish Mirror; A tweet last night from Saoirse McGarrigle, who first reported about Gibson in The Wexford Echo

Christian Brother John Gibson was convicted yesterday of sexually assaulting two children in the 1980s at a CBS school in Wexford.

Journalist Saoirse McGarrigle writes:

Last Tuesday Judge Elma Sheahan imposed a blanket ban on all reporting of the trial.

There was no reason given for this application for reporting restrictions on behalf of the DPP.

I called the Irish Mirror lawyer and argued the case for challenging these restrictions and he subsequently contacted lawyers for the Irish Times and Irish Independent.

They made a joint submission on Thursday and yesterday Judge Sheahan lifted the restrictions – meaning we could now name him and use photographs.

Last week we could not report that a trial was even taking place, let alone name the defendant!

The background to this case is that I interviewed a man (now deceased) while working for the Wexford Echo, who told me that he had been abused by Brother Gibson.

He then made a report to gardai and we ran the story that allegations had been made against “A Christian Brother” (no name) and detailed the nature of the claims (ie: that abuse happened after kids were asked to do odd jobs around the school and Gibson would insist on washing them.) The story resonated with others who contacted me and subsequently went to Gardai.

On Monday the trial began – based on three charges, two victims.

The significance of the reporting restrictions was that this story began with local investigative journalism.

At the culmination and conviction yesterday, it needed to be reported in national media. It was a story that needed to be told.

Getting the restrictions overturned yesterday was a huge win for press freedom and of course the victims who deserved publicity of the conviction after a long five year wait from time the story first broke and they made reports.

In fairness.

Christian Brother John Gibson found guilty of sexually abusing two children in Co Wexford (Saoirse McGarrigle, The Irish Mirror)

Previously: Christian Brothers Stories

10 thoughts on “‘Last Week We Could Not Report That A Trial Was Even Taking Place’

  1. Daisy Chainsaw

    Saoirse McGarrigle has built up quite a reputation for reporting on clerical abuse and enabling its victims in getting justice.

    And long may she continue.

  2. Spaghetti Hoop

    Journalists will just need to navigate around the court restrictions. She is reporting the trial now, but the report above is badly written and peppered with her own rant. That’s a shame, these cases deserve a bit more care in how they are communicated.

  3. H

    Were the restrictions in place to ensure that the jury weren’t influenced by any media reporting? I can see a case for this because it would give the perpetrator the opportunity to appeal against their conviction on those grounds if it hadn’t been in place.
    I fully agree that the story needs to be told now but I think waiting until after the verdict for this reason is better than giving people the chance to get away with things because the jury was compromised or they argue that they can’t get a fair trial.

    1. eoin

      The court “imposed a blanket ban on all reporting of the trial” after a request from the Director of Public Prosecutions. What possible reason could there be for such a blanket ban? Okay, you don’t name alleged perpetrators until the jury has convicted and you never name alleged victims, but to not give an outline of the case? This is Ireland, not Stalin’s USSR.

      1. Mel

        Maybe, and I’m just speculating here. Maybe because in recent cases journalists couldn’t be trusted not to identify those involved, leading to the collapse of at least one trial to my knowledge.

      2. Spaghetti Hoop

        Because of the nature of the case – especially in recent social history! We have yet another frocked representative of the Catholic Church accused of child sexual abuse. The perpetrator was a trusted figure in the community with access to vulnerable children. The victims have experienced horrendous abuse which has ruined their lives. The scenario is not a new one. What if the accused was innocent?

      3. MaryLou's ArmaLite

        Maybe the state didn’t trust people like yourself to restrain themselves and not run their mouths off on social media platforms and message boards

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