Harte apology could ease a woman’s pain

Picture by Stephen Hamilton/Presseye.com
Picture by Stephen Hamilton/Presseye.com

Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte has been all over the media in the last couple of days giving his views on Sunday’s all-Ireland clash with Mayo. But not everybody has enjoyed listening.

“Any time I hear him it brings it all back. I have to turn it off,” says one Derry woman.

The woman reckons she heard enough from Mr. Harte last February, when he supplied a character reference for a man who had confessed that he’d sexually assaulted her in a vile and disgusting way.

The man, 27, from Tyrone, had initially denied but in the end admitted having offered the woman, a mother in her 40s, a lift home from a pub and attacked her and then ejected her from a van unconscious and in a state of undress.

She was found hours later in a laneway by two men on their way to work. They thought at first that they had stumbled on a dead body.

The assailant’s barrister presented a number of character references when the case came up for sentencing at Derry Crown Court.

Judge Piers Grant singled out the testimonial from Mr. Harte as one of the “mitigating factors” which led him to pitch the sentence towards the very bottom of the range - two and a half years, half in jail, half on licence.

The woman has more recently been informed that her attacker will be freed next January, having served 11 months.

The barrister told the court that the defendant “comes from a highly-regarded family in mid-Ulster who are widely known within the GAA.”

In fact, the woman, too, is from a family steeped in the GAA. She describes Mr. Harte as having been “an ambassador and an inspiration for young players. But he spoke up for the person who attacked me. What was he thinking? Maybe he was misinformed.”

An apology from Mr. Harte now would go some way towards easing the woman’s turmoil.

She is a capable, resilient person, by no means a caricature victim, but she hasn’t been able to put the experience behind her. Perhaps she never will.

The fact that a great icon of the GAA spoke up for her assailant sharpens the hurt which she continues to feel. Looking back, Mr. Harte can hardly feel content that he did the right thing. He should let the woman know that he now regrets his role in the affair. It would make a difference.