Group calls for abuse inquiry into McQuaid

Fri, Dec 9, 2011, 00:00

A SWORN statutory inquiry should be set up to investigate sex abuse complaints and concerns about former archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid, the One in Four group has said.

Yesterday it called on Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald to establish such an inquiry.

One in Four executive director Maeve Lewis said: “It is the only way to establish the truth of the matter. If Dr McQuaid is innocent of the allegations then it will be an opportunity to restore his good name.

“If the allegations are true, then we must know the extent of the sexual abuse, who else was involved and crucially if the church or civil authorities of the time had knowledge of the abuse but failed to act. If records exist, they must be examined.”

She urged “anybody who has been affected by the publication of these allegations to contact One in Four for support”.

Ms Lewis added: “If these allegations are true, then the sexual abuse of children extended to the very highest levels in the Irish Catholic Church.

“Dr McQuaid was archbishop of Dublin for over 30 years and was at that time possibly the most powerful, influential and feared man in Ireland. If Archbishop McQuaid was, as is alleged, a sex offender himself, then it is no wonder that the secrecy and cover-ups which have characterised the church’s handling of sexual abuse was so entrenched.”

Abuse survivor Marie Collins said that “if Archbishop McQuaid was abusing children himself it would explain his inaction when the Paul McGennis case came to him”. Ms Collins was abused as a child by McGennis in 1960 when she was a patient at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children at Crumlin in Dublin, where McGennis was chaplain. The Murphy commission concluded, of Archbishop McQuaid’s handling of abuse allegations against McGennis, that “it established a pattern of not holding abusers accountable which lasted for decades”.

The archbishop “aimed at the avoidance of scandal and showed no concern for the welfare of children”, it said, and found “risible” the archbishop’s conclusion that McGennis’s actions arose from “wonderment” at the female anatomy.

Ms Collins said yesterday: “It always seemed strange to me that he [Archbishop McQuaid] could dismiss so easily the physical proof of McGennis’s abuse and his weak excuse for that abuse.” She said that “if the archbishop had taken the proper action Fr Paul McGennis might have been removed from the priesthood and lost his privileged position of trust with children.

“This would not have saved me as I had already been abused by Fr McGennis before the photos of those two young children were passed to the archbishop but it might have saved the other young girls he assaulted in later years.”

Film McGennis sent to England for processing was reported to police there, who contacted gardaí. Then Garda commissioner Daniel Costigan referred it to Archbishop McQuaid. The commissioner “has a lot to answer for as well”, Ms Collins said. “Through his deference to the church and the power of the archbishop he let those two young victims down and let a dangerous man go free,” she said.

In June 1997 McGennis pleaded guilty to his abuse of Ms Collins and was sentenced to 18 months. Days later he received a nine-month concurrent sentence for his 1976 abuse of a girl aged nine in Wicklow. On July 29th last, aged 81, he was given a six-year sentence, with the final four suspended, at the Circuit Criminal Court for the abuse of a young girl in Dublin between 1980 and 1984, beginning when she was 11.