A retired teacher has been jailed for two and a half years for a sex attack on a teen boy in the sauna at the Tralee Aqua Dome.
onal McMahon (69), a former teacher at CBS The Green, Tralee, with an address at Tawlaught, Fenit, was sentenced by Judge Tom O’Donnell at Tralee Circuit Criminal Court – sitting in Limerick – on Monday.
In March 2019, Mr McMahon had previously pleaded guilty to four separate counts of sexual assault against the same teenage boy at Tralee Aqua Dome on the Dan Spring Road on February 2, 2018.
At the March 2019 hearing, the court heard that the victim – who was in his mid teens – was at the Aquadome with a friend when he entered a steam room at the popular family attraction.
In the steam room he met an older man – whom he did not know but later learned was Donal McMahon- who stared at him and asked him “Do you like it hot?”
The staring continued until the victim’s friend entered the steam room. When the boy later went to the sauna alone Donal McMahon followed and sat down next to him.
Mr McMahon started rubbing the victim’s leg and feeling the boy’s private parts through his togs.
He pulled down the boy’s togs and then pulled down his own before taking the boy’s hand placing it on his penis and moving it up and down.
“I completely froze. I was so scared I couldn’t move,” the boy later told Gardaí.
A number of times during the attack, the court heard, Donal McMahon went to the sauna window to check no one was coming before returning to attack the boy again.
At one point Mr McMahon asked his victim “Do you like it?” and as he left the sauna he asked the boy if he’d be there again tomorrow.
The boy left the sauna and told his friend what had happened.
They immediately told staff at reception what had taken place and the boy’s family and gardaí were alerted. The attacker was identified from CCTV footage and arrested.
While Donal McMahon initially denied all allegations against him, he subsequently pleaded guilty to the charges.
In March 2019 Judge O’Donnell was also told that, when arrested, Mr McMahon had displayed no evidence of remorse.
He did not know his victim and the pair had never met prior to the attack.
Passing sentence on Monday, Judge O’Donnell described the attack as an “appalling” act that had a profound psychological effect on the young man and his family and left the victim “extremely traumatised”.
Judge O’Donnell noted Donal McMahon’s previous teaching career as a significant aggravating factor.
“The accused is a retired teacher. One would have expected from his experience he would be trying to protect students rather than take advantage of them, as he did with this young man,” he said.
The Judge said the fact that Donal McMahon had pleaded guilty and spared his victim the trauma of a court case had been “a major mitigating factor” but that he believed the nature of the offence meant “a custodial sentence must be imposed.”
He imposed concurrent jail sentences of two years and six months for each of the four charges and ordered that Mr McMahon’s name be added to the sex-offenders register.
Defence Barrister Brian McInerney asked if the judge would consider suspending all or part of the sentence.
“I’ve already given him credit,” Judge O’Donnell replied.
Victim’s family: ‘We got justice’
The family of the teen boy sexually assaulted by former teacher Donal McMahon say they are relieved he was given a custodial sentence and feel justice has been done.
“We really did not expect he would get sent to jail. It’s a great relief and I did not expect to be leaving court on Monday feeling the way I did. We got justice and we hope this will encourage other victims of sexual crimes to come forward,” the victim’s mother told The Kerryman.
“Now we just want to move on and forget all about Donal McMahon,” she added.
In a victim-impact statement, read to the court by the boy’s mother, the victim said he “felt ashamed” and had “dark feelings” after the attack but that he wanted to speak out to protect others.
The court heard that the boy had feared speaking out about the attack as he was afraid he would be ridiculed and mocked.
“I feel ashamed. I know people will make fun of me and ask me questions,” the boy wrote in his victim-impact statement.
His mother said her son had endured “a lot of dark and depressing moments” since the attack, and while she is concerned about him, she is very proud of his decision to come forward in a bid to protect others.
Judge Tom O’Donnell praised the victim for his bravery and said he should be commended for his desire to save others from harm.
“It is a sad reflection on society that you feared you’ll face ridicule,” Judge O’Donnell told the boy.
“Any of your peers, anyone who knows you, will commend you. As a result of your swift action, the accused was brought before the courts and admitted his wrongdoing,” said Judge O’Donnell.