From top: Susan Denham; Patrick Gageby; BBC Sounds/Second Captains podcast Where Is George Gibney?
Irvin Muchnick writes
It’s as good a time as any to point out, and against the popular tide, that the hyped new BBC Sounds podcast Where Is George Gibney? has yet to bring itself to share with listeners the details behind what is vaguely and passively called his “vanishing” from justice for 26 years.
To its credit, episode 4 of the podcast, which started airing today, does acknowledge the impediment of Irish defamation law.
However, the episode does not go on to mention the punches that were pulled in the media, then and in this very production, as a result.
That core element is the legal reasoning that the two-time Irish Olympic swimming coach, charged with 27 counts of sexual assault of underage victims, could not receive a fair trial due to the passage of time.
And that the Supreme Court panel which made this possible included Justice Susan Denham. later a Chief Justice, who was in “complete agreement” with this chilling decision.
AND among Gibney’s legal team before the court? Patrick Gageby, Denham’s brother.
Following the judgment, which led to a High Court judicial review which quashed all of Gibney’s charges, a number of applications on the basis of delayed complaint were made through the courts in Ireland, with Mr Gageby managing to throw out charges against at least seven alleged child rapists on these grounds.
What their father, the storied Irish Times editor Douglas Gageby, made of all this is not recorded. In fact, outside of a small court report in his old paper, the judgement was hardly noted.
Mr Gageby Jnr would later tell a legal conference in 2003 that he believed there was a ‘subversion of the presumption of innocence’ with historic sexual abuse cases.
Making him the perfect candidate, therefore, to be appointed in 2007, by your then Minister for Justice Michael McDowell, to review the case of Cynthia Owen and the ‘Dalkey House of Horrors’, which, of course, concerned…historical sexual abuse.
Mr Gageby’s review of the original, deeply flawed investigation did not recommend any further action be taken. And the beat goes on.
Today, thanks to the podcast by Mark Horgan and Second Captains, news consumers can access interviews of Gibney survivors, always disclaimed upfront with alerts that children and those with weak stomachs should consider donning earmuffs to protect against the strong “adult” language and situations.
Additionally, we are privileged with exclusive rambling tease passages about stalking a septuagenarian in a Florida suburb and unnerving the neighbors.
But mumbling a word about possible institutional cronyism that has fueled and sustained sexual abuse by powerful figures in Ireland since time immemorial, and remains unchecked and unaccounted for?
Nooo. Can’t have that.
For my own 2019 ebook, repurposing and bulleting my now nearly six-year-long investigation of Gibney’s flight to America, accompanied by a report on the two-continent campaign to do something about it, I educated myself on Ireland’s unique brand of self-censorship.
The explanation given to me was that the country’s legal system simply doesn’t support what an outsider would call unfiltered investigative journalism.
Maybe even that formulation is too cagey, using verbiage that tracks the syndrome itself. The way I put it is that, in basic ways, the Irish just don’t permit themselves to tell it like it is.
Their news media not only are expected to modulate controversial conclusions; they also are prohibited from publishing fundamental facts and letting others arrive at their own conclusions.
One Irish journalist contact told me this:
“I can’t recall any publication airing the apparent conflict of interest in this case [Denham-Gageby]. I did bring it up with editors in the past and it was too sensitive an issue to run with. The point is a lot of people knew about it so what were we going to say? Obviously the answer to that is there was a conflict of interest.
But Irish law is not the same as in the USA. We have for example no First Amendment. If there was any imputation of wrongdoing on the part of a Supreme Court judge there would have been legal consequences. I did bring it up but it didn’t get past the door.
I have in recent months looked at it again and spoke to a number of legal eagles including a spokesman for the Bar Council. They agree that because of the size of the small population of Irish lawyers in the business, the collegiate nature of the law and the family connections, it was not that unusual. Gageby was regularly in the Supreme Court and the belief among legal people is that they are all above it.
I believe it is an staggeringly arrogant position to take and have trouble believing that there is no conflict of interest.
That said, yes it’s difficult to get anyone to run with it.”
Another emailed me:
“It would have been defamatory in Irish law to imply that there might have been any influence exerted by the sibling relationship between the judge and the senior counsel. It is arguable that lawyers for an accused person must have equal access to the courts. Defamation law here has been slightly relaxed [in recent years]…. Ireland’s defamation laws are draconian and censorious.”
The Irish media problem is part of the Irish cultural problem in confronting the Gibney legacy.
I’ll be continuing to follow and report on it.
Previously: Irvin Muchnik on Broadsheet