Bishop given details and sought meeting


BACKGROUND:IT IS over six weeks since this reporter was first contacted by a known and trusted source with information indicating that the Bishop of Clonfert, John Kirby, had been aware since the mid-1990s that a priest he had moved following a report of child abuse, continued to abuse children in the new parish.

In subsequent discussion with this and other sources it also emerged that the priest, who was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for the sexual abuse of one child, told Bishop Kirby in the mid-1990s that he had abused 17 children in the diocese. Five of those children, it was indicated, had been abused in Creagh parish, to which the priest had been moved by Bishop Kirby in 1990.

This was contrary to statements issued by the bishop on September 5th and at weekend Masses in Clonfert diocese on September 15th and 16th last. In each he suggested that the priest did not abuse in the parish to which he moved him. The Irish Times remains confident of the credibility of its sources in preparing this story.

But there is another matter. Three weeks ago, on September 17th last, Bishop Kirby was facilitated with all the details published in The Irish Times yesterday by way of a number of specific questions. On receipt of those details, through the Catholic Communications Office in Maynooth, he asked to meet this reporter to discuss same. That was agreed. He was also informed that the meeting would be on the record. It was suggested it take place coincident with the Irish Episcopal Conference’s autumn meeting at Maynooth, on September 25th and 26th last.

As neither time or date was agreed then, this reporter contacted the Catholic Communications Office a number of times in the week beginning Sunday, September 23rd. Uncertainty prevailed until the evening of Wednesday, September 26th when, as the bishops’ meeting ended, Bishop Kirby sent a letter by email.

He said: “I now think it would be unhelpful to meet but I am grateful to you for the readiness with which you agreed to a meeting.”

He felt it “could serve to exacerbate again the hurt which my earlier remarks have caused to victims of child sexual abuse and their families”.

He made no reference at all to any of the questions raised in the correspondence with him on September 17th. In his conclusion to that email of September 26th, he said, as he did again yesterday, “I do not intend to comment any further on the specific cases which arose in the diocese.”