Family standing by twisted OAP found guilty of abusing his two granddaughters
They even hosted a going-away party for ‘bible-thumping’ Limerick man Paddy Shanahan before he was jailed for 11 years
15th August 2022
A woman who was subjected to years of horrific sexual abuse at the hands of her grandfather when she was a child has revealed how some members of her extended family have stood by him and even hosted a going-away party before he was jailed.
Serial abuser Paddy Shanahan (75) from Cooga, Doon, Co. Limerick, was sentenced to 13 years with two suspended at Limerick Circuit Court earlier this month after he was convicted of 14 counts of sexual assault on his grandchildren Daria and Tara Tobin.
Unrepentant Shanahan, who Daria described as a “bible-thumping” church-goer who presented himself as a pillar of the community, was convicted of similar offences against three other young girls, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, last year.
Daria (23) and Tara (21) waived their own right to anonymity so Shanahan can finally be exposed as a vile predator.
“Hopefully he’ll die in prison – and die a slow painful death,” Daria said.
Shanahan pleaded not guilty, so Daria and Tara had to go through the harrowing ordeal of a two-week trial during which they were aggressively cross-examined by Shanahan’s barrister.
Limerick woman Daria revealed how she stopped her testimony to get physically sick as she could hear Shanahan breathing deeply behind while she was giving evidence.
“I left the court and physically vomited because I couldn’t give any more evidence. He was shuffling in the chair, deep-breathing behind me. It was disgusting. I could feel him creep up on me.”
She believes Shanahan pleaded not guilty “just to put us through more torture and pain and get something that he was in control of”.
Daria said vile Shanahan wasn’t even big enough to admit what he did and she would never refer to him as ‘grandfather’ again.
Earlier this month a jury unanimously found the 75-year-old guilty of the 14 counts of sexual assault against the girls.
Despite his latest conviction and his previous convictions for abusing three other girls in an unrelated case, some members of his family are sticking by him.
His wife Helen and three of his daughters, Trisha, Nuala and Catherine, are standing by Shanahan despite his conviction.
“Three of my aunts and my grandmother are calling us liars and they don’t accept the jury’s verdict,” Daria said.
“It’s up to them, but there are many more unfortunately before us and probably many more after us, so even if just one person could read it and get the strength and courage [to come forward] that would mean so much.”
Two of Shanahan’s other daughters, including Daria and Tara’s mother, are not standing by him and offered support to the sisters during the trial.
Shanahan worked in Limerick Council until his retirement around a decade ago, and before that he worked as a school bus driver. He also previously coached a girl’s camogie team a number of decades ago.
“He would have had a lot of access,” Daria said. “We would honestly believe there are other victims. Even for local people to read it, I’d hope him being exposed will give anyone else the strength or hope [to make a formal complaint].”
Incredibly, a number of people, including some of his neighbours, provided character references for Shanahan despite knowing the allegations against him.
“He had character references. The judge did ask him if any of those people who gave the character references were there,” said Daria.
- The sentence hearing took place in the same week that, in a separate unrelated case at the Central Criminal Court, Mr Justice David Keane rejected character references for a Sligo paedophile who was convicted of raping and indecently assaulting three children, as the people who provided the references were not in court to be cross-examined.
“It was in the papers that week about the thing in Sligo and the judge asked again whether or not [the people who gave references] were here.”
- The abuse took place from 2008 to 2014 and started when the girls were aged seven and nine. It started with inappropriate touching when Shanahan was grooming them and progressed to more serious sexual assaults.
“It was almost an everyday thing. If he wasn’t doing something to us, we would be thinking ‘what in God’s name is wrong with us?’” said Daria.
“It was a regular occurrence. It started when he used to rub our legs constantly but this could be done in front of anyone, so this was like normal behaviour. That was the start of what we were told was grooming.”
Daria said she thought the leg rubbing was normal, but realised when it progressed to serious sexual assault it wasn’t normal.
“Because it was presented as such normal behaviour as children, I didn’t know until I was 17 or 18 that it was weird,” she said.
“You think it’s normal because that was what we grew up with and the other adults in the house didn’t bat an eyelid or say that’s weird or wrong. They saw it and didn’t acknowledge it. A normal adult should have pulled something like that.”
She said the abuse had continued to have many impacts and effects on her life, including severe anxiety and trust issues.
“To begin and the hardest one to accept is that I was denied an entire childhood because of what he did to me as a child,” said Daria.
“I was denied the innocence a young little girl should have. My grandfather stole my entire chance, the only chance I ever had of being a child.”
“As the adult in all of this he consciously abused me routinely when my little innocent inner child was too vulnerable to speak up.”
Daria and her sister later told an aunt on her father’s side and their mother about the abuse before eventually making complaints to gardai.
The case took four years to come to trial and Daria told how difficult that experience was, especially when some members of her extended family supported her grandfather.
“We were still called liars,” she said.
She added that before he was jailed last year on similar charges, some members of his family had a going-away party for him and brought their kids to see him.
“After the first case he was allowed home for a week to look after his affairs before he started his sentence. They had a going-away party before he was locked up, with kids over to the house.”
She told how people locally thought Shanahan was a pillar of the community.
“He was seen as a great man of the community. Little do you know that behind closed doors that’s not the reality. He would go to Mass every week – a great holy man.
“I’d say he was there for his vanity more than anything. How can you be this Bible-thumping church person and do this to children?”
She said she and Tara are grateful for the support shown by their parents and relatives who did believe them.
“I was talking to a lady from the Rape Crisis Centre and she said the amount of people who come in alone who don’t have family with them. It’s so difficult for them to think whatever happened to you you’re on your own.
“Some people do it absolutely alone. The system protects [the accused] to the very last minute. Until we gave our victim impact statements and our barrister said he had no right to protect his name, publications can report on it, until then, it felt like we had never done anything right.”
She said she wanted to express her gratitude to Garda Shane Graham who investigated the abuse, and added she hopes by telling her story it gives other people who were abused the strength to come forward.