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The power of podcast: How this Irish true-crime podcast made it to the pages of the New York Times


by Amanda Cassidy
19th Jan 2021

For too many years, too little was done in Ireland about allegations of child abuse by a well-known swimming coach. But a new podcast might finally be the tipping point that brings justice to the victims, writes Amanda Cassidy


Produced by Second Captains and in association with the BBC, Where is George Gibney is a difficult but vital listen. Over a two and a half year period, producers Mark Horgan and Ciarán Cassidy set about meeting with those who have accused the former swim coach of sexual abuse.

Their stories of being disbelieved, let down by authorities, and having their lives destroyed are the driving force for the podcast which has already been downloaded over one million times.

Anguish

Horgan initially wanted to offer a voice to all those who’d been a victim of Gibney. He felt like other historical cases of abuse (Larry Nassar, the USA gymnastics coach as well as stories about former football coach Barry Bennell in the UK) had been a turning point for survivors of sexual abuse in sport. The Me Too movement was bringing worldwide attention to those finally facing down their greying abusers in court.

After years of anguish, it was their time.

George Gibney is a 72-year-old former Olympic swim coach. He was accused of abusing some of the swimmers he worked with – most of whom were minors at the time. In 1994, Gibney avoided trial on 27 charges of rape and sexual abuse because of a loop-hole in the Irish justice system which meant that the alleged incidents between 1967 and 1981 and the charges that were brought were described as too old and lacking in details to allow him to defend himself properly.

Investigations

He managed to obtain an immigrant visa and moved to the US. He now lives in Florida. The podcast gained a lot of attention for its strong interviews as well as its pace – as the producers chased Gibney’s movements in the US leading to the climax when they finally doorstep him at a supermarket.

The podcast began helping to turn the wheels of justice on behalf of the victims. The Gardai are now investigating accusations that Gibney sexually abused two swimmers who came forward after hearing the podcast. An update to Irish law means he may finally be brought to justice.

Then the New York Times picked up on the story. This week it reported on the harrowing details of the case. It explains how even though no criminal complaints or charges have been brought against Mr. Gibney in the United States, that may soon change.

This was one of those black moments in Irish history — and there were many of them — where the Irish courts mirrored Irish society in not knowing how to deal with historic child abuse

Criminal charges

“Justine McCarthy, a journalist for The Sunday Times of London and author of “Deep Deception,” a 2009 book about sexual abuse scandals in Irish swimming says had interviewed an Irish woman — once a prospect for Ireland’s Olympic swimming team — who said she had been raped by Mr. Gibney at a training camp in the Tampa Bay area of Florida in 1991, when she was 17. John D. Fitzgerald, a senior trial lawyer with expertise on Irish criminal and extradition law, said that were there to be new criminal charges in Ireland, this could potentially result in an extradition request under Ireland’s bilateral treaty with the United States. This application could then be contested in the American courts.”

It is now hoped that the new allegations, the weight of the podcast, and the victim’s testimonies will finally mean justice could be within grasp.

“The podcast producers said their original intention was to give a voice to the victims of Mr. Gibney’s alleged abuses, and there had been little expectation that it might lead to a criminal investigation.” The New York Times reports.

“This was one of those black moments in Irish history — and there were many of them — where the Irish courts mirrored Irish society in not knowing how to deal with historic child abuse,” Mr. Horgan said. “I think this is an opportunity for Irish society to right one of those wrongs. We really do hope something comes of it.”

You can read the full article here

You can download the 8-part podcast here 

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