The actor also disclosed that at the age of 11, he went to England to train as a priest but was sexually abused by a member of the clergy there.
Byrne said he had struggled with alcoholism and depression in the past, and that he had been “deeply hurt” over the abuse he endured as a boy.
The star of films such “Miller’s Crossing” and “The Usual Suspects” spoke openly about the abuse to Ireland’s most famous broadcaster, Gay Byrne, on a new show, “The Meaning of Life”, on RTE television. “Unfortunately, I experienced some sexual abuse,” he said. “It was a known and admitted fact of life amongst us that there was this particular man, and you didn’t want to be left in the dressing room with him.” “It took many years to come to terms with it and to forgive those incidents that I felt had deeply hurt me.”
Another priest sexually abused him when he was 11 at the English seminary. “It didn’t go on over a prolonged period but it happened at a very, very vulnerable moment,” Byrne recalled. “Again, I didn’t think it severely impacted me at the time. But when I think about my later life, and how I had difficulties with certain issues, there is the real possibility they could have been attributable to that.”
Byrne said he left the priesthood four and half years later because of his love of women.
“I went down to London during a break and we got on the bus and I walked up the stairs behind two girls in miniskirts and that was the end of it for me,” he said.
The actor, who has been open before about his experiences with alcoholism and depression, said he had gone through very black periods in his life He believes alcohol is linked to depression and is shocked at the amount of alcohol consumed by young people in Ireland.