AN Ardoyne woman says she is ready to live her life again after her grandfather was jailed for sexually abusing her.
Frederick Charles Meenan (76) of Jamaica Court in Ardoyne was sentenced to three years in prison, half to be served on licence, after being found guilty of three counts of sexual abuse.
The victim, Mary Gearon, now aged 25, waived her right to anonymity to ensure that her grandfather's name could be made known to the wider public.
Speaking to the North Belfast News, Mary said: “I was completely in shock. I was expecting him to get a lighter sentence or a suspended sentence.
“The fact he will serve jail time is a big push for survivors and victims of sexual abuse.
“It has overtaken my life, I have to say. I was forced to move out of the country away from my family and everyone that I knew, so that I could feel safe and walk to the streets.
“I suffer with high anxiety and depression.
“Ever since, I told my story, my family have been subjected to abuse daily in the streets.”
Mary says she now feels safe to return home to Belfast after having moved to Liverpool, and she hopes her story will encourage other victims of sexual abuse to speak out.
“It has brought a bit of closure for me. I feel like I could return home to Belfast and not have to look over my shoulder every two seconds.
“I have always said from the start that no matter what the verdict is, as long as I can get my truth out and help another victim come out. It is okay to come out and tell the truth.”
Asked what she would say to her grandfather, Mary added: “You ruined my life. I was meant to trust you as my grandfather.
“It is now my turn to live my life while you suffer the consequences that you face.”
During the trial, the jury heard the abuse occurred in her grandfather's home on a date between June 1, 2006 and September 30, 2008 when the child was aged between nine and 11.
Whilst they were sitting on the sofa, he asked her if she had a boyfriend and said: “Do you want me to show you how to get one?”
The youngster was indecently assaulted on the sofa before she was taken to an upstairs bedroom by her grandfather where he carried out further acts of sexual abuse on her.
He denied two charges of indecent assaulting and one count of gross indecency, and earlier this year he stood trial — but was convicted by a jury on all three counts.
Judge Kinney said he accepted defence submissions that the pensioner had a clear criminal record and there was a “history of alcohol abuse”.
The judge said Meenan had shown "no remorse or insight into his offending behaviour".
"She was a young child entitled to childhood, she was entitled to trust her grandfather and was entitled to expect from him the safety, security and protection that a grandfather should give," he added.
After Mary's Victim Impact Statement, Judge Kinney praised her for her “courage in coming forward” and said: “What happened to her was never her fault.
“She was a young child entitled to a childhood and entitled to trust her grandfather, and was entitled to expect from him the safety, security and protection that a grandfather should give.
“I hope this sentencing exercise will bring closure, at least to a chapter in her life, and provide a better foundation for moving forward.”
Noting the impact the defendant's actions have had on her, and the lack of remorse displayed by his continued claims of innocence, Judge Kinney described the abuse as a “single, protracted incident".