By Declan Brennan and Claire Henry
A man has been jailed for three years for the rape of his 13-year-old girlfriend over three decades ago.
The Central Criminal Court heard that in 2021 gardaí received an anonymous letter alleging that Ian Ryan, of Knockroe, Kilcoole, Co Wicklow, had raped the victim in 1986 when he was aged 18 and in a relationship with the child.
An investigation began and gardaí were able to identify the victim and she made a formal complaint. The court heard that the pair had met in 1986 at a disco in a rugby club and began seeing each other – the girl's parents were supportive of the relationship.
Michael Delaney SC, prosecuting, told the court on a date in early 1986 the couple were in her family home when her parents were out and she was babysitting her siblings.
The couple were discussing condoms and the girl found one in the house. Ryan asked the girl if she wanted to use it and she said no. The court heard the man then began crying and became extremely distressed that she had declined to have sex with him.
The woman said she felt guilty and hugged Ryan and begged him to stop crying. She said she told him she loved him and said that if he wanted, they could “make love”, the court heard.
They then began sexual intercourse on the floor of the kitchen. The girl asked Ryan to stop but he didn't. She later told gardaí that she told Ryan “stop, stop, you're hurting me”, and she tried to push him off her but he was too heavy.
She said he stopped a moment later and told her what they had done “was natural and beautiful”. The court heard the couple continued then to have a sexual relationship. In August 1986, Ryan, who came from a violent family home, moved in with the girl and her family and in December she was pregnant.
The victim was aged 14 when her son was born and the couple later separated.
Ryan of Knockroe, Kilcoole, Co Wicklow, pleaded guilty last December to rape at a place in Greystones, Co Wicklow, on a date between January 1st and March 31st, 1986.
The court heard that after his arrest in 2021 Ryan told gardaí that all the sexual activity was consensual and claimed that he didn't know she was aged 13 when they met.
In her victim impact statement the woman, now aged 50, said Ryan had manipulated her into having sex and convinced her it was an “act of love” and “the most natural and most important part of their relationship”.
She said she still got flashbacks to the rape and tried to take her own life when she was in her 20s. She said at the time she felt “lost empty and confused”.
The court heard that Ryan is now a father of five with no previous convictions in Ireland but with some convictions for shoplifting and road traffic offences from the UK.
Justice Paul McDermott said the difference in age between the two at the time was significant but that the court also had to take into consideration the fact that Ryan had just turned 18 at the time.
He said that his age and his difficult background would have affected his level of maturity at the time of the offence. He said the court also had to consider how he would have been sentenced at the time.
He noted Ryan's violent and dysfunctional childhood, his later history of chronic alcohol abuse and his efforts to address the latter. He said he accepted as genuine Ryan's expressions of remorse and shame over his behaviour towards the victim.
The judge suspended the final year of a four-year prison term on various conditions, including that Ryan engaged with violent behaviour and alcohol abuse programmes and have no contact with the victim.
Mr Delaney told the court that the victim, who was not in court, wished to waive her anonymity.
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 drcc.ie/services/helpline, or visit Rape Crisis Help.