Priest repeatedly abused boy in Co Wicklow over four-year period, court hears

Priest Repeatedly Abused Boy In Co Wicklow Over Four-Year Period, Court Hears
Denis Nolan (70)pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to counts of rape and sexual assault on dates between January 2001 and December 2005. Photo: PA Images
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Declan Brennan

A convicted child abuser began abusing a schoolboy three years after arriving in the boy's parish and went on to abuse two more boys over the next 13 years, a court has heard.

Defrocked priest Denis Nolan (70), formerly of The Presbytery, Rathnew, Co Wicklow, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to three counts of anal rape, one of oral rape and five counts of sexual assault of the school boy on dates between January 2001 and December 2005.


Nolan was the curate in Rathnew from 1998 to 2012, having been ordained in 1979. He was on the board of management at the local school, which the victim attended.

The child was 12 when Nolan invited him to earn some money by doing gardening jobs at the parochial house. Nolan would pay him amounts from €15 to €100 but after a number of weeks, Nolan began asking him about sex and then began molesting and groping the boy.

Nolan would tell the boy “it was ok and all part of growing up” and that he could earn more money for the sexual acts, the court was told.

Nolan later raped the boy when he was 14-years-old, the court heard. Paul Murray SC, prosecuting, told the court the pain of the incident was horrendous and the child was crying and begging Nolan to stop, however, the accused continued for up to 30 minutes. The boy went home after and showered, feeling sick, dirty and violated.



In another incident, the priest gave the child a number of beers and the child woke up later on the couch naked from the waist down and felt sore. Nolan asked him “do you want it again”, leaving the child confused and disgusted.

Nolan raped the boy on a number of occasions, and gave him money after each rape, sometimes as much as €100. The court heard Nolan sexually assaulted the victim more than 15 times between 2005 and 2006 by performing oral sex on the child in the presbytery.

In his victim impact report, read out by Mr Murray, the man told the court that Nolan had groomed him and robbed him of a normal childhood.

He said he struggles to hold down a job because of mental health difficulties resulting from the abuse at the hands of “this monster”. He said he turned to unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with the trauma of abuse and lost many years of his life.


Detective Garda James McDonagh told the court that when questioned Nolan initially denied all the allegations. He entered a guilty plea last month shortly before a trial was due to commence.

In 2014, Nolan was jailed for seven years for systematically sexually abusing a boy in Co Wicklow over a five-year period beginning in 2009 when the boy was 12.

Three years later, Nolan received a prison term of six years for rape and sexual abuse of another young boy, this time in the years 2006 to 2012. The abuse on the third victim means he was abusing boys for a period of 13 years, from 2001.

Public apology

Justin McQuade BL, defending, said his client had instructed him to issue a public apology to the victim and his family.


“He has asked me to extend that apology to the entire community of Rathnew whose trust he breached in the most egregious manner and accepts that it was a complete and utter betrayal of everything he stood for while working in that community,” counsel said.

He said that his client grew up in a home where alcohol and corporal punishment were both features. He left the family home at 19 and joined a seminary and was ordained eight years later.

He said Nolan has engaged with a sex offender treatment programme while in custody and has expressed remorse during counselling.

“Therapy has begun as has his recognition that what he has done in the past was wrong. He recognises these are very serious offences and he is guilty of egregious breach of trust and betrayal,” counsel said.


The sentence hearing had to be stopped at one point when the victim became emotional and Justice Karen O'Connor offered him a glass of water and a break. She later told the man he should be proud of himself for finding the strength to come forward about the “horrific abuse” he suffered at the hands of “a powerful person who took advantage of a child”.

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“Your courage will encourage others to speak out and come forward,” she said. The man thanked the judge for her comments.

The judge adjourned the case to December 2nd for finalisation.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call the national 24-hour Rape Crisis Helpline at 1800-77 8888, access text service and webchat options at, or visit Rape Crisis Help. 

In the case of an emergency, always dial 999/112. 

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