'If I had done any wrong I'd be gone' - Dr Walsh
Bishop Éamonn Walsh, Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin, took questions from Religious Affairs Correspondent PATSY McGARRY outside the Catholic bishops’ winter conference in Maynooth
Patsy McGarry started by asking Bishop Walsh about suggestions he was “under pressure”
“Yeah, well, you and your newspaper have put me under pressure and I’m the kind of person that if I have something to say I say it very directly.
“If I had done any wrong, I’d be gone. And the other thing is that my record on child protection goes back a long way and it’ll continue. And if on the other hand the perception continued among the people that I was somebody who was complicit in all of this, then that would be a barrier in my ministry and I couldn’t even minister as a priest or a bishop if that were to continue.
“So I have to do everything in my power to assure people of my earnestness in the past, in the present and, while I may be contaminated in people’s mind by association, I consider a lot of the things that have been written have been at least disingenuous, have been an ingenious way of twisting facts.
“They are not satisfied with what’s in the Ferns report, where I gave a co-operation beyond what any court could compel. Even when there was the part of the appendix that was due, as the judge called it, an unfortunate but a genuine error, that still has not been accepted by some commentators. And I find that an attack on my personal integrity, and if I haven’t my integrity I have nothing. The easy thing for me would be to walk away. That’d be the easy option. And I will have to consider if my personal integrity and the continuing perception of me as a priest – if I haven’t got that I have nothing.”
You can understand probably why, considering the findings of the commission of what went on in the Dublin archdiocese from 1975 to 2004 – that basically there was a cover up – I’m not insinuating that you were party to it, but you were secretary to Archbishop McNamara, who took out insurance in 1987. You were secretary to Cardinal Connell before you became auxiliary bishop in 1990. You can see why people ...[might have a particular perception]...
Bishop Walsh cut in to reply at this point:
“I can see that absolutely. I’ve no problem seeing that and the perception they have of a secretary and the perception of the kind of table we have, a sort of board of management. But as far back as 1990, I wasn’t a month in the job as a bishop, and I stood up at a meeting and I said that not alone should the police, who were already informed about an individual, but we should say where he was living and the number of his car, because I felt he was a danger.
“A certain person, who is now deceased , wrote in horror to the archbishop that somebody could even think that way. That was the culture of the time. I did everything I could, but if I am contaminated by association, then I have to accept that and I will let the people judge, the people in my area. But at the end of the day I have to make whatever decision and, as I said, the easiest thing would be for me to walk away.”
The commission report refers to one particular allegation in one instance where you advised a woman to write to the chancellor. Did you report that to the Garda?
“Can I answer that very clearly. That was post the framework document (1996) and what I said to the woman . . . she rang me on a Saturday. She was a nun. She was a social worker and she said I have a concern, could you advise me? And I said what is it, and she said there is a priest who has offended and I said is he alive and she said he is. Is he in ministry, she said he is. Then you must act right away and this is how you proceed. You go to the chancellor who is the delegate and write to him and I will check to see he acts on it.
“He did act on it but it took about six months for the woman to actually get the name of the complainant and you can’t go to the guards with a third-party concern. So the spin that was put on that yesterday morning (in an article on Tuesday in The Irish Times by One in Four founder Colm O’Gorman) was most disingenuous and outrageous.”
To address the Ferns inquiry . . . the uncovering of those eight separate files you had not submitted to the Ferns inquiry until this lady went to the One in Four organisation [with an allegation of clerical child abuse in April 2005]?
“They’re very conveniently trying to claim the credit for everything there. As soon as that came to our attention we went to Judge Murphy [retired Supreme Court judge Frank Murphy, chairman of the Ferns inquiry team]. He has in the report acknowledged that this was a genuine, regrettable error. It did not affect the findings and he said that my integrity was totally intact and referred to the co-operation I gave. You know, the world knows the level of co-operation that I have given. And again, I find it amazing that a person who would write in the dedication of their book to me ‘To Eamonn, in truth and respect’, Colm O’Gorman, could try and speak from the other side of his mouth and put another interpretation on that.
“I find that just scandalous for a person who stands for what we call an international organisation called Amnesty. And to behave in that kind of an unjust way is beyond words from me. I’ve no more to say.”