Paedophile ring probe launched in Republic of Ireland
Police in the Republic have begun an investigation into an organised child sex ring amid claims dozens of young boys were abused for more than a decade by a school caretaker and other paedophiles.
It has been learned that officers in Co Donegal are now probing claims against at least four other suspected paedophiles linked to Michael Ferry.
The 56-year-old raped four boys after being allowed back to his job at the Ard Scoil Mhuire Irish language summer school in Gweedore despite having a conviction for the sexual assault of a pupil.
Details of the Garda inquiry emerged as Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter confirmed that gardai informed the then North Western Health Board of Ferry's first conviction and also expressed concerns to the school's owner.
A director of the school, Donal O Loinsigh, last night confirmed management were aware of Ferry's previous conviction when they gave him his job back. In a statement, he claimed Ferry was not a member of staff, but was allowed do "odd jobs" at the school under supervision.
"Everybody was informed. This was no secret. If he had to do something he was well-monitored," said Mr O Loinsigh.
It is understood that concerns were expressed about Ferry's behaviour as far back as 1979 when he was a student priest. Ferry was expelled from a seminar because of a "lewd sex act".
He was first convicted in 2002 at Letterkenny District Court of sexually abusing a young boy at the school. However, although placed on the sex offenders register, he escaped with a non-custodial sentence and a €500 fine. A representative of the school was in court for the hearing.
After returning to work, he continued abusing boys at the school premises.
Earlier this week, he was jailed for 14 years after pleading guilty to 38 sample charges of rape and molestation between 1990 and 2005. Although those charges only related to four victims, gardai fear Ferry may have abused as many as a dozen boys.
A source close to the inquiry said: "It appears - from the allegations made so far - a paedophile ring was being operated in this area. Ferry took pictures of his victims when they were being abused - in cases like this, it is often to share with other paedophiles."
The Republic's Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald, last night said she had received a preliminary report from the Health Service Executive (HSE) and that it "raised serious questions".