McKenna, one Evil, Paedophile, 16 Years Jail, Justice Served, to the Brave Victims, Who came Forward, and Told, their Tragic Stories, of Abuse.

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Ex GAA official jailed for 16 years after admitting 162 sex abuse charges

The victims released an emotive joint statement and urged other victims of sex crime to speak out.

Thomas McKenna
Thomas McKenna — © Thomas McKenna

Today at 15:25

A former Crossmaglen GAA official has been sentenced to 16 years in prison after pleading guilty to over 100 sex abuse charges spanning 30 years.

Thomas McKenna, with an address at Maghaberry Prison, was sentenced on Friday for what a judge called “a campaign of sexual offending” against 23 boys and young men across.

The 62-year-old pleaded guilty to 162 sexual abuse offences that took place between 1989 and 2018.

Judge Patricia Smyth accused him of an attempt to “continue the psychological power games that you’d played for years” in how McKenna pursued his legal defence, and said that the psychological harm McKenna had inflicted on his victims was “immeasurable”.

“There is no sentence that this court can pass that will repair that damage,” she said.

“I am passing an extended custodial sentence of 16 years with an extended licence period of seven years,” she said, adding that his name will be placed on the sex offenders’ register for life and he will be disqualified from working with children.

The victims released an emotive joint statement and urged other victims of sex crime to speak out.

They said: “We thank Her Honour Judge Patricia Smyth for the sentence handed down earlier today.

“As a group, we sincerely thank our families, our community and the members of the Crossmaglen Rangers Club for the unwavering loyalty, support and care you have provided us.

“We want to thank the police service for the empathy and swiftness in which they dealt with the crimes committed against us from when they were first informed almost five years ago.

“In addition, we also wish to thank the Public Prosecution Service and the prosecution team for their professionalism and diligence in preparing the case for court and ensuring we received the guilty pleas for the litany of crimes committed against us when we were children. And most importantly, to ensure this individual will never be a part of our community again.

“While there were many difficult days as we relived the crimes committed against us, we as a group are immensely proud of the strength, dignity and unity we’ve displayed throughout this process to get the justice we deserve and ensure that the pain and suffering inflicted upon us will not be felt by another generation in our community.

“We urge anyone else who has suffered similarly to take confidence from our journey and to reach out to the relevant authorities.

“To John, Bernie at Ulster GAA, and Jill, the investigating officer within the police service; thank you for hearing our voices. Thank you for the support, comfort and reassurance you have provided us throughout this process. Each one of you went above and beyond your call of duty.

“We will be forever indebted to you for everything you have done for us, individually and collectively. We hope your families are very proud of you.

“Finally, we request that our privacy and that of our community is respected.”

A senior police officer praised the victims for speaking out.

Detective Chief Inspector Kerry Brennan said: “Thomas McKenna was a respected and influential member of the Crossmaglen community, who used his positions of trust to gain access to young males to carry out the litany of abuse as outlined in court today.”

“His offending spanned over a lengthy 30-year period.

“He has caused long-lasting psychological damage to his victims and their families and I’ve no doubt that learning of the severity of his offending today will ricochet through the Crossmaglen community.

“Predators of this type are incredibly manipulative, and invest a lot of time building trust and embedding themselves within communities to carry out their offending under the radar. Hidden in plain sight.

“Our thoughts today are with the victims that this man preyed on, and abused for so many years. It takes huge courage to speak out and break the cycle of abuse.

“We would like to commend them for coming forward and working with our dedicated detectives. We would continue to encourage anyone who has experienced any form of sexual abuse to contact police on 101, or in an emergency call 999.”

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