The 26-County state and the Gardai police will be accused from a Dublin stage next week of covering up claims about the serial rape of young boys because the alleged abuser - dubbed “the Irish Jimmy Savile” - was an informer blackmailed into spying on the IRA.
An award-winning Irish playwright and novelist has become so incensed by the Dublin government’s failure to publish an internal report exploring why Gaelic-language activist Domhnall O’Lubhlai was never prosecuted over the boys’ allegations, that he has written a drama about the scandal.
In ‘Language of the Mute’, which will premiere at the New Theatre in Dublin’s Temple Bar quarter on Monday, one character accuses the Garda Siochana of recruiting another character - resembling O’Lubhlai - as an agent to spy on IRA and Sinn Fein members from the 1970s onwards.
The playwright Jack Harte said he suspected O’Lubhlai’s recruitment meant the authorities turned a blind eye to a deluge of complaints against him from the 1990s. O’Lubhlai died in 2013 without ever facing prosecution.
“Although this play has fictional characters, yes it is based on him. And there were strong rumours that when the garda got this damaging material on him that they used to squeeze him, that they turned him into an informer. It is suggested in the play as we had heard that he was giving useful information to the state in return for getting away with raping kids. This is highlighted in the play, this kind of cynical manipulation by the state,” Harte said.
As well as setting up a network of Irish-language colleges from the early 1970s onwards, O’Lubhlai aligned himself with the Provisional IRA and Sinn Fein but then broke away with Republican Sinn Fein in 1986.
The accusation of a cover-up to protect an important state informer is amplified in the play through the character of Kathy, whose brother has killed himself because the garda have failed to prosecute his abuser, known as Donie. Donie is described by Harte in the script as a “teacher, Irish-language activist and supporter of extreme republicanism. Around 60 years old.”
Harte’s motivation to write the drama was highly personal: he taught alongside O’Lubhlai at a school in west Dublin in the early 1970s and feels a deep sense of betrayal and anger.
“I believe there were dozens of victims of serial rape of boys who fell under his influence,” he said. “I don’t like the term child abuse. It somehow diminishes the horror of what happened to these boys. They were raped on a large scale. When the allegations came out in the 1990s I got to know some of the boys who were now men, many of them with seriously damaged lives. They felt anger towards him and a sense of betrayal that the state had let them down. Some of these victims have been in touch with me as I was writing the play and some of them will be coming to the New Theatre to see it.”
The 26-County justice department said an internal garda review of the case contained “sensitive personal information which would not normally be released”.