"It's time that I told my story and rid myself of the shame and the guilt." Having listened to the RTÉ Documentary on One programme Blackrock Boys, Stephen contacted Liveline and told Joe Duffy that he started attending Willow Park – Blackrock College’s primary school – in Dublin in 1968 when he was 7. His first year was fine. Then, in his second year at the school, the abuse started. Stephen described his first encounter with the priest who started abusing him as being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He had been playing on the pitches with friends and he’d slipped and got covered in mud. The school had a matron and his friends decided to bring him to her to see if he could get cleaned off:
"And on the way up there anyway we came across somebody by the name of Flood, who said that he could sort me out, that he had a couple of spare uniforms in his office and whatever else and a shower and I could go in and have a shower and clean down and whatever else. I was 9, I didn’t know anything different, so I said, 'Yeah, fine.’"
Stephen and Aloysius Flood went to the office and while Stephen was showering, the abuse began. Flood started massaging Stephen’s groin and then placed the 9-year-old boy on his lap to dry him off:
"And there again started feeling me all over, between the legs, the bag, whispering in my ear and at the same time, he had his hand in his pocket. I didn’t know what he was doing, but I know what he was doing now."
This first episode lasted about half an hour, Stephen told Joe and then, a few days later, he encountered the priest again. The second time, Flood told Stephen he had his uniform washed and he should take off the one he was wearing and put his own one back on. Flood would subsequently bring Stephen to his office on the pretext of delivering something for him and again continue the abuse. Stephen described how the priest was able to take advantage of standard Irish schoolboy clothing:
"In those days we didn’t wear long trousers, we wore shorts, so the hand went up the side of the shorts pretty easily."
The abuse Flood perpetrated on the 9-year-old Stephen continued for most of that year in Willow Park. In fifth class, Stephen had a maths teacher called Corry and Corry would trap Stephen between desks in the classroom and put his hand around his neck to ensure that the then 10-year-old Stephen couldn’t move:
"What he would do then is he would proceed to put his hands down the front of my trousers, down the back of my trousers and at the same time he would be rubbing himself up and down against me. Now, bear in mind, this is in a maths class and this is on front of 28-29 other guys."
Senan Corry was, Stephen went on, known for frothing at the mouth and – despite the fact that he was abusing Stephen in front of the whole class – he whispered in his ear:
"He was breathing in my ears, ‘This is our secret, this is our secret.’ There’s 29 people watching us. ‘You can’t tell anybody, nobody’s going to believe a young lad like you against a priest. And don’t forget, we can get you expelled and you have brothers that are following you up and they won’t be allowed into the school.’ And, just threats like this all the time."
The abuse from Flood continued that year as well as that from Corry and they both used similar lines on the helpless boy they were subjecting to such appalling treatment:
"It just seemed to be the same rehearsed thing, ‘You can’t tell anybody. This is our secret, nobody’s going to believe you. You and your family and your parents will be disgraced. Your brothers won’t get into the school.’ And it was just a total and utter fear factor with them."
Corry’s abuse in the classroom lasted from Christmas until the school closed for the summer and it was continuous, five days a week, non-stop. Both Corry and Flood were priests in the Holy Ghost Fathers – now known as the Spiritans – and Joe asked Stephen if each knew about the other’s abuse of the 10-year-old boy in their care:
"At the time, no. But now, looking back in hindsight, they had to have done. There was no way – I, to be honest with you, I don’t think they were the only ones who knew. I mean. When you consider there’s other people who are witnessing this, somebody’s going to say something to somebody."
The ongoing abuse had a devastating effect on Stephen’s relationships, especially with his parents – he couldn’t tell them about what was happening, he felt enormous guilt and he just wanted to run away, to escape. He tried his best to get suspended or even expelled, just so he could get away from the school.
"I was breaking my mother and father’s hearts because they couldn’t understand and I couldn’t tell them what was going on and they couldn’t understand why I was like I was, why I was a messer or a troublemaker and I had three brothers who were good in school."
Stephen’s third abuser started his exploitation in much the same way that his first one had – he made a pretence at being concerned for Stephen’s welfare, brought him to his office to look after him and began abusing him immediately. Stephen – at this stage having moved from Willow Park to Blackrock College – was in a fight, got a kick to his groin and dropped to his knees. Gerard Hannan saw him fall to his knees and asked him if he was okay:
"He said, ‘Come into the office, I’ll give you a glass of water, make sure you’re alright.’ I went in and, out of total naivety or whatever, of course. He said, ‘We’d better check to make sure there’s no serious damage done.’ I did and he just began to massage me and at the same time he had his hands in the pocket of his cape."
Hannan continued his abuse of Stephen over several years. When the adult Stephen was ready to talk about the abuse he suffered, he went to the Gardaí who were extremely supportive, and he got an apology from the current head of the Spiritans in Ireland. To date, 233 pupils have made allegations against 77 teachers in 6 schools.
You can hear Joe's full conversation with Stephen on Liveline – including Joe reading the apology from the Spiritans to Stephen – by going here. If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you may be able to find support and assistance here.