From top: Where Is George Gibney? podcast promotional material;Mark Horgan; George Gibney; Irvin Muchnik
Following the release earlier today of the first episode of the much-heralded podcast ‘Where Is George GIbney?’, US investigative journalist Irvin Muchnik, who has been on the trail of the swimming coach since 2015, writes:
The first of what I believe are a projected 10 episodes of the documentary series Where Is George Gibney? is now out.
In an overlong and indulgent half-hour, this production of Ireland’s Second Captains podcast, in association with the British Broadcasting Corporation’s BBC Sounds, sets things up with the story of Irish swimming great Gary O’Toole feeling the scales fall from his eyes as Chalkie White, on a plane en route to the world championships in Perth, Australia, in 1990, confides Gibney’s sexual abuse of White decades earlier.
The problem here, however, is not length. The problem, rather, is head producer, writer, and narrator Mark Horgan’s penchant for self-stoked drama.
Before we hear from O’Toole and White, we get an extension of the throat-clearing hype that has marked the months-long run-up to this series. Horgan, it seems, has “found” George Gibney, who had “vanished.”
Gibney didn’t vanish.
He moved to the United States after an Irish Supreme Court panel in 1994, which included Justice Susan Denham, sister of his barrister Patrick Gageby, allowed a judicial review into the ‘fairness’ of his 27-count indictment for carnal knowledge of minors.
Seven swimmers had come forward and sworn statements to the Gardaí that Gibney had assaulted them at various times between 1967 and 1981.
However, The Supreme Court granted Mr Gibney leave to apply for a review (which quashed all charges) on the basis that his right to a fair trial might possibly have been infringed because of a delay in initiating the charges.
It was the first case (long since revised) in Ireland to recognise that a delay in making a complaint of sexual abuse could preclude a subsequent prosecution.
And Gibney got to America with one of the so-called “lottery” Donnelly diversity visa privileges of that period.
Six months ago I wrote that I would be listening for whether this highly anticipated series would bring listeners significant fresh information, or simply prove “to be applying, for the umpteenth time, broadcast production values to old information.”
Regardless, I added, I planned to tip my hat if the podcast proved to be the vehicle that finally pushed over the top justice for Gibney and accountability for his friends in high places and for swimming authorities in both Ireland and the U.S.
Let’s all hope the remaining episodes of Where Is George Gibney? do better. But in order to do better, Horgan will have to make some of his Central Casting crutches “vanish.”
Gibney is a monster, for sure. But it’s high time for storytellers to push past the tropes of monster-sketching and into analysis of the systemic pathologies of the youth programmes that serve as farm clubs for the bread-and-circuses Olympic system. It takes a village to make a monster.
Horgan’s breathless opening stakeout of Gibney, foreshadowed in Irish press pre-coverage, is juvenile. It dribbles off into the generic awe of brushing past this now pathetic old man at a store, after the Second Captains crew shadowed him on the drive there, whispering lame directives to each other like addicts of police procedurals.
The scene lacks even the payoff of a confrontation audio, similar to the scene in the 2006 television piece on RTÉ’s Prime Time, in which reporter Clare Murphy thrust a microphone in Gibney’s face in a parking lot in Calistoga, California (In 2017, Concussion Inc. unearthed a 13-minute segment; our edit of it is viewable here).
Sources in Florida tell me that Horgan and company botched their Gibney stakeout. Rejecting local advice to notify the police as to why they were parking their van overnight near the house Gibney shares with “Brother Pedro” on Breakwater Drive, the crew wound up getting called out by neighbors, who were concerned about the mystery vehicle parked on their block.
Previously: Shallow Hype