A WEST Belfast man subjected to a catalogue of abuse at the hands of a former St Paul’s curate saw his tormentor sentenced to four years in prison yesterday. Daniel John Curran appeared at Downpatrick Crown Court on Wednesday, February 29, after admitting to indecently assaulting two boys while they stayed with him at a cottage in Tyrella, County Down in the late-80s and early-90s.
It’s 61-year-old Curran’s fourth conviction for sexually abusing boys whilst serving at St Paul’s.
The latest victims were altar boys in the parish at the time of the attacks, which they suffered between the ages of nine and 11.
One of the victims, who wishes to remain anonymous, spoke to the Andersonstown News about how the abuse he suffered at the hands of Curran almost drove him to take his own life. He described how the attacks started shortly after he first took up his duties as an altar boy.
“Curran had been visiting my elderly grandparents to administer Holy Communion,” he said. “It was normal for him to come into my own house in the evening time for tea and coffee. He set out to build a relationship with my family in order to gain access to me. It was completely premeditated. He was building the foundation for his abuse and he made sure it would work.”
Curran would soon ask the victim’s parents if he could take their child on an overnight trip to a cottage located in his native County Down.
“He would pick me and a few other friends I went to school with who were also altar boys,” he explained. “We all thought it was great to get away from Belfast. We would stop at the shop to buy food and he would buy alcohol. The cottage was completely on its own, with no water or electricity, and that was the appeal to us – it was a real adventure. It was all about lighting fires and going out to the well for water, as if you were camping.
“A lot of times he used to take us down to Tyrella beach and tell us to get out of the car and walk home. He’d say by the time we got back to the cottage he’d have the dinner made. A lot of the times we’d get home there was no dinner and he would be sitting relaxing by the fire, consuming alcohol, smoking his pipe and wondering who was going to be his victim.”
Curran would often ply the children with alcohol during mealtimes.
“He would have little wine glasses for us that he poured red wine into,” he said.
“He would make all of us drink it and tell us it was the ‘Blood of Christ’. I must have been only eight at that time. Later that night we’d be sitting by the fire and sometimes he would teach us to play poker. He would get so drunk that he would pass out and we would go out and run around the fields late at night. He would then wake up and tell us to get ready for bed.”
The holiday cottage where Curran preyed on the young boys was described in court as a “spartan affair” with just two downstairs rooms and a loft.
“The loft was floored and had single beds,” said the victim. “He would never let us sleep up there. Knowing what I know now, that was because he would be too drunk to climb up the stairs. There was one double bed in the bedroom downstairs and he would bring us all into that bed. He would sit at the end of the bed with us and make us say prayers with him. He would go back into the living room to sit by the fire and continue to drink until he was ready to get into bed and abuse somebody. You would wake up in the middle of the night and – surprise, surprise – he was in bed beside you.”
The victim recalled that no abuse took place on his first few visits to the cottage.
“Quite possibly he might have been abusing someone else that I was lying next to,” he said.
“I was unaware of it, quite possibly because I had had too much to drink. There was never any mention of what went on. He would bring you back to school and drop you off and that would be it until the next time.”
When the victim was first attacked by Curran he said he “never questioned it”.
“I just continued along and thought it was okay as it was the ‘living God’ that was doing this to me,” he said.
“When you don’t hear any one of the other boys talk about it you start to feel there’s something wrong. I felt I was the only one.”
It would be another 20 years before he confided in anyone about what happened to him, a situation he described as “horrendous”.
“It takes a toll on everything,” he said. “I tried to deal with it myself by paying for private counselling at 17 or 18, whenever I had the money, which did not work. As I got older I would think about Curran about every nine months, then the intervals got shorter to the point that he was constantly with me, all the time. I was scared to live but afraid to die.”
Finally in 2010 he decided to report the abuse that was continuing to threaten his mental health.
“I was at breaking point and felt I had nothing to lose, and it was the best thing I ever did,” he said.
“My family found out and I felt completely owned by them again as I was no longer lying to them. My dad feels extremely guilty about what happened as he let Curran take us away and feels he let me down, which isn’t the case at all. What happened has absolutely nothing to do with my family and there are hundreds and hundreds of other families throughout West Belfast and the North that are experiencing exactly the same thing as we are.”
The victim said he was “relieved” that the truth about his abuse has finally come out.
“I’m relieved that it’s on public record and that this man is now going to jail,” he said.
“The damage has been done but you’ve got to get on with it as I won’t be the last person to come forward about Curran. My life was crumbling very fast before I reported the abuse and had I not done anything about this or reported this I may not be here today. That would have let that bastard beat me.
“From what I have experienced and endured I would actively encourage any individual who has been abused by the clergy of the Catholic Church to come forward. Do not be afraid as justice will be served.”