Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

“Heightened tensions” as former Crossmaglen GAA official refused bail

A former treasurer of Crossmaglen Rangers GFC has been refused bail after being charged with a string of sexual offences spanning a 30-year period. 

Thomas McKenna (58) and formerly of Dundalk Road, Crossmaglen faces 17 charges which are alleged to have taken place between 1988 and the time of his initial arrest in August this year.  The charges include two counts of buggery against males aged over 16 without consent and two gross indecency offences, one of which was against a child.  

The former GAA official is also charged with sexual assault, voyeurism and eight counts of indecent assault, as well as making and possessing indecent photographs of children.  The final charge relates to McKenna’s role as a postal operator where he is alleged to have interfered with mail.  In total nine people have made complaints against him.

McKenna was refused bail in the High Court in Belfast on Wednesday last, after Justice McAlinden described the allegations made against him as “of the most horrendous nature in terms of offending against young vulnerable children”.

Prosecutors allege that the 58-year-old had more than 50,000 photos and video clips stored – many showing young men and boys naked or partially clothed. Judge McAlinden was told that police are still working to establish the identities of some of those pictured.

Crown lawyer Kate McKay told the court the charges related to a “serious and complex investigation” into claims of historical sexual offences.  Mrs McKay said all nine complainants have come forward to speak to police and provided interviews about the alleged incidents.  According to the Crown prosecutor, the complainants also claim that McKenna took photos and videos of them at locations without their permission.

Computer devices said to contain 43,000 still images and 8,000 short video clips were recovered during police searches. The haul is also said to include photos taken in recent times.  Mrs McKay opposed bail citing the risk of re-offending and revealed that McKenna had received a death threat. 

Defence lawyer, Kevin Magill, said however that his client was merely advised of heightened tensions in Crossmaglen, where he worked as a senior club official for Crossmaglen Rangers for many years.

Refusing bail, the judge highlighted that not all of the alleged offences are historic and added: “The court would be remiss in its duty to protect the public if bail was granted”.

Meanwhile, Crossmaglen Rangers GFC has issued a statement assuring members of its “robust child safeguarding procedures” and encouraging any member of the club, or others, who may have information in relation to these investigations “to co-operate in full with the statutory authorities as they carry out their investigations”.  It confirmed McKenna had been excluded from all activities pending the outcome of police inquiries.

The statement from the club’s Executive Committee acknowledged and appreciated the Ulster GAA and the Association’s National Children’s Office in Croke Park who are liaising with the club on the matter and added that “the GAA will continue to provide specific support services to any member of the club who may be impacted upon by these events”.

“Any member of the Club or of the community who may be affected by these matters may also avail of the services provided by NSPCC 0808 800 5000 or Nexus on 02890 326803 or 02871 260566.  Due to the on-going investigation the Executive Committee will not issue any further statement at this time in relation to this matter,” the statement concluded.