Wednesday, October 4, 2023


“MY main feeling is just admiration for him, because the telling of this wasn’t easy – even with his brother.” Those are words of praise for Newcastle man Gerard Gorman from his younger sibling, poet and playwright Damian Gorman, who helped him pen his newly published memoir ‘So Young: The Taking of My Life by the Catholic Church’. The book, officially launched in Derry late last month, exposes the abuse that Gerard suffered as a first year pupil in St Colman’s College, Newry, at the hands of notorious ‘My main feeling is ju paedophile priest Fr Malachy Finegan, the subsequent impact this had on his life, and his long battle with the Catholic Church – often in the civil courts – to force it to acknowledge the harm done to him and its covering up of the abuse. Speaking to the Mourne Observer last Thursday, Damian said the launch event had been “terrific”, particularly because Gerard – who has spent a significant amount of time in hospital since he suffered a heart attack in January – had been able to attend. “He only got out on Saturday (26 May) and the launch was on Sunday,” he stated. “Whether it was wise or not, nothing was going to keep him away. “He came and people rose to him, literally they rose to him, they stood up and applauded him, and, when they heard some bits from the book and a couple of us speaking about him, they stood up as one, turned towards him and applauded him.” Also notable was the attendance of Archbishop Eamon Martin, Primate of All Ireland, at the event. “I think it is important to say that he was there,” said Damian. “I thanked him on the day publicly, I am thanking him now, and this is not just from me – this is from Gerard as well. “But if nothing changes for people like Gerard and the way they are treated as their cases progress, it’ll be as if he wasn’t there. “Maybe it will – maybe something will change and that’s the big hope.” The genesis of the book came in 2011, when Gerard opened up for the first time about the horrific abuse he had suffered in the 1970s. “All I knew was that Gerard had refused to go back for second year, and adamantly refused,” explained Damian. “He actually defied our dad about it, and that was something that you didn’t do. “The story was that he was being bullied, which of course he was, but it was at the extreme of that and crimes were being committed. “What I knew and carried into my own middle age was that Gerard refused to go back even in the face of dad telling him, ‘You’re going back if I tell you you’re going back’. “That is as much as I knew until about 11 years ago when he started to speak about it, and he didn’t find it easy.” Having worked on projects that allowed people to tell their stories of trauma – particularly those that were conflict-related – the poet was asked by his older brother for help in documenting his own story. “I had done that in the north of Ireland in relation to our own conflict, I had done it in the Middle East, with Israelis and Palestinians, and Gerard said, ‘My story, that trauma that I have experienced, I want you to do the same thing for me’,” stated Damian. “The whole point of someone wanting to tell a traumatic story about something that has happened to them is they want it to be heard. “It can’t be heard if you don’t hear it first, as the person that is helping them. “If you don’t hear it, nobody else will. “You listen very, very deeply to hear their voice, so that you can carry it for them.” The Newcastle man also highlighted that his brother had described his desire to get his story out as wanting to figuratively come out of a room of sanctuary he had actually discovered as a pupil in St Colman’s College. “We did it together – he sat down and he told me the whole story, his life story from beginning to end, so people would see how this abuse had come into it, how it affected the course of his life after that, and it is also the story of his campaign for justice,” he continued. “It’s a life story, it’s a whole life story, it’s about growing up in Newcastle, it’s about being a teenager in Newcastle, it’s about running about during the Troubles in Newcastle, there are particular people mentioned and places. “So, it is not just an unrelieved purgatory of a story. “It is a very difficult story, but it is also the story of someone who is 16 in Newcastle, who started going out with girls in Newcastle, lived in a particular time, grew up in the 70s. “There is more to it than just a straightforward ‘somebody did this to me’ – it’s more 360 degrees than that. “My main feeling is just admiration for him, because the telling of this wasn’t easy, even with his brother.” Damian concluded that, whilst it had been his job to “make the book bearable for his brother and the reader”, Gerard’s aims were for it to “speak to people who are suffering in silence” and for “people who are engaged in legal processes just to be treated a bit better”. “In that sense, you could say that he wants to change lives,” he said. “I am trying to make it readable, while he is trying to change lives and I think it might. “What Finegan did to him was a depraved crime, it was an abuse of Gerard, an abuse of power, an abuse of the age difference. “It was all of that stuff, and it was utterly, utterly selfish. “And what I have seen Gerard do in the last few years – and I know why he has done it – is utterly, utterly selfless. “It is really not about him – he’s doing it because he thinks it might bring a bit of peace to somebody else, to some other men or women or people who have been abused, that it might bring them a wee bit of peace. “It is my hope at this stage, now the book’s out, that it brings a wee bit of peace to him.”

‘So Young: The Taking of My Life by the Catholic Church’, published by Blackstaff Press, is out now.

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