Fr. Paul McDaid
FORMER PRIEST JAILED FOR CHILD PORN IMAGES
By Seamus McKinney
BISHOP of Derry Dr Seamus Hegarty was among a number of people who provided character references for a former Catholic priest jailed on child pornography charges. Former County Donegal priest Paul McDaid (38), was sentenced to two years in prison with the last six months suspended when he pleaded guilty to possession of more than 3,000 child pornography images. His name has also been placed on the Sex Offenders Register.
At Letterkenny Circuit Court Judge Matthew Deery said he took into account the fact that McDaid co-operated with Garda and voluntarily sought counselling. He also showed great remorse for his crimes. Earlier it was revealed that McDaid, from College Park in Letterkenny, was ordained a priest in 1989 but left the priesthood seven years later in 1996.
During his time as a priest McDaid worked as a diocesan secretary to the then Bishop of Raphoe, Dr Seamus Hegarty, who later became Bishop of Derry. After leaving the priesthood the Letterkenny man undertook further studies before taking up employment as a health promotion officer with the North Western Health Board in Co Donegal.
The court was told that Gardai seized 3,474 pornographic images during a search of McDaid’s home on May 27 last year.
The Garda was given the County Donegal man’s name as part of an international investigation into child pornography called Operation Amethyst. McDaid used his credit card to obtain child pornography on the internet from an American company which was being investigated by Interpol.
Among the images found on a laptop computer at his home were pictures of children as young as three in various sexual acts, as well as ‘pseudoimages’ showing a girl known by McDaid imposed on a picture of a naked teenager.
Passing judgment, Judge Deery revealed that he had received a letter from the Bishop of Derry, Dr Hegarty, giving a character reference for McDaid. Dr Hegarty noted that the defendant was “very contrite” for what he had done and that the crime was out of character for the man that he knew. The Derry bishop believed McDaid still had a “very positive contribution” to make to society. Two other local priests also supplied character references.
Judge Deery revealed that McDaid was forced to leave his home when graffiti was daubed on the walls. He also incurred debts through his addiction to the internet. He had lost his good name and job and his relationship with his fiancee was at risk because of his crime. While the treatment he would receive in prison was not as good as the programme he was on at present, the judge said he could not accept that the Letterkenny man was not aware of the harm his activities caused to the children involved. McDaid was refused leave to appeal.