Irish priest behind one of largest sex abuse settlements in State deported from Brazil

Thu, Dec 29, 2011, 00:00

AN IRISH priest responsible for what is believed to be one of the largest ever settlements in a clerical child sex abuse case in the State has been deported to England from Brazil, where he had spent the past eight years.

Fr Peter Kennedy (72), a priest with the St Patrick’s Missionary Society at Kiltegan, Co Wicklow, faces child abuse allegations from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s.

They involve at least 18 people from whom gardaí have taken statements. The suicides of two young men have been examined as part of the Garda investigation.

His congregation removed Fr Kennedy from active ministry in the mid-1980s following persistent complaints of sexual abuse against him dating back to the late 1960s, when he was a missionary priest in Africa. In the late 1980s he moved to London, where he continued to be under the supervision of the Kiltegan Fathers, and worked as a taxi-driver.

Since fleeing to Brazil on a British passport in 2003 he has been resident in Sao Paulo, where he worked as an English teacher.

At the time, gardaí from the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit at Harcourt Square in Dublin had spent more than 18 months investigating serious allegations against him, and a file had been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

As Brazil and Ireland do not have an extradition treaty, federal police there moved cautiously over the past four months to prevent Fr Kennedy using judicial means to stall or end his deportation from that country, as had happened where other fugitives to Brazil were concerned.

When the priest applied for permanent residence in Brazil he signed a declaration affirming he did not have a criminal background in his home country or judicial processes against him.

Confronted by Brazilian federal police last Monday, St Stephen’s Day, Fr Kennedy’s permanent residency card was confiscated and he was deported to London that evening. He remains in custody there pending extradition to Ireland.

The priest was at the centre of a major abuse scandal in July 2003 when one of his victims in Ireland was awarded €325,000 in a High Court settlement with the Kiltegan Fathers. It was paid to Brendan Shannon arising from allegations that in 1982 he was abused at his home in Cloonloo, Co Sligo, by Fr Kennedy.

Fr Kennedy had arrived as a locum priest in the parish when Mr Shannon was aged 13. In his statement of claim to the High Court, Mr Shannon said the abuse took place over a period of months when his father was dying of cancer and being cared for in the home. Some of the abuse occurred in the room where his father lay ill.

According to the plaintiff’s mother, Éilis Shannon, then a local national school teacher, the abuse came to an end when she walked in on an attempted assault.

She told The Irish Timesthat when she contacted a local curate about it he refused to take a complaint. However, Fr Kennedy left the parish immediately.