Bishop of Kilmore wins orders to halt three actions over Smyth abuses
Damages brought against Dr Leo O’Reilly in light of revelations Catholic Church was aware of child abuse and failed to act
Bishop Leo O’Reilly, Bishop of Kilmore: expressed deep regret at “the great suffering that all three plaintiffs endured” at the hands of Smyth. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
A Catholic bishop has won orders in the High Court in Dublin halting three actions for damages brought against him in a representative capacity over the church’s alleged failure to take steps to prevent paedophile priest Brendan Smyth from sexually abusing children.
A man, his sister and a cousin had previously settled Northern Ireland court actions for £25,000 damages each, arising from being sexually abused over years as children by Smyth.
It was alleged those settlements did not adequately compensate for the damage inflicted on them and they were also unaware of meetings which, they claimed, showed Catholic Church representatives were made aware of Smyth’s abuse in 1975 but failed to act to stop it.
High Court president Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns yesterday granted an application by the Bishop of Kilmore, Dr Leo O’Reilly, for orders halting the three actions against him as representative of Kilmore diocese.
Deep personal regret
After the ruling yesterday,
Dr O’Reilly said in a brief statement that he noted the decision of Mr Justice Kearns in regard to the application for further compensation and expressed his deep personal regret at “the great suffering that all three plaintiffs endured” at the hands of Smyth “and I utterly condemn his actions and the betrayal of trust that they represent”.
Responding to the bishop’s statement, one of the plaintiffs insisted their action “had nothing to do with money. What we wanted was an acknowledgement [by church authorities] that they held back information from us and an apology for doing that. It was not about going back for a second bite at the cherry”.
The man was abused by Smyth between 1968-76. He claimed he was unaware, when settling his Northern Ireland case in 1998, that former bishop of Kilmore Dr Francis McKiernan and then Fr (now Cardinal) Seán Brady were made aware in 1975 that Smyth was abusing children, including himself, but failed to alert either gardaí or the man’s parents.
Mr Justice Kearns said the real issue was whether the revelation or discovery of the 1975 meetings concerning church investigations into the allegations against Smyth constituted a fresh cause of action and a separate injury to the plaintiffs not addressed in the Northern Ireland settlements.
He ruled that a “mere exacerbation of existing damage” did not alter the substance or nature of the damage and there was no new cause of action with the revelations of the 1975 meeting.
It was “a matter of utmost importance” that the integrity of case settlements be upheld.