'Violent, predatory and dangerous'


IRELAND: Rockwell College, Co Tipperary

“DERMOT” IS an Irishman who has had a distinguished international career. He attended the Spiritan/Holy Ghost novitiate at Rockwell from 1954 to 1956/7, in preparation for priesthood in that congregation.

While there he “formed the opinion that a number of seminarians there were being sexually abused” by novitiate director Fr Christopher Meagher. Further into his conversation with The Irish Times he acknowledged that he too had been abused by the priest, physically and sexually. He recalled Meagher as “violent, predatory and dangerous”.

He was “a damaged individual who in moments of clarity wasn’t a bad priest. My anger is at the congregation. Other priests knew but priests don’t rat on priests,” Dermot said. Victims had “very difficult lives and were very damaged” and he was convinced the congregation “knew very well what had happened at Rockwell”.

In 1996 Dermot confronted the Irish provincial leadership of the Spiritans/Holy Ghost Fathers about all of this.

He was already aware of three or four victims of Meagher and he told the leadership team “they had a moral obligation to track down the victims”, he recalled.

There were three meetings. He got nowhere. All he was given was “psychobabble, convoluted deviousness, circumlocution. I was completely flim-flammed.”

A letter he received from the leadership “did not speak to the subject”.

Then he discovered that Meagher, whom he found out later was alive when all this began, had died. He believed all “the prevarication and evasions were because he was alive. I gave up.” But he was “exceedingly angry”. He remains so.

He said that even during a career which took him to some of the biggest trouble spots in the world, he had never come across a leadership team such as he met at the Spiritans/Holy Ghosts.

Theirs was a “masterful performance in circumlocution and obfuscation”.

In 1996 the Spiritan/Holy Ghost Irish provincial was Fr Martin Keane. He is now superior of the congregation’s Foundation of Kenya.

His two assistant provincials in 1996 were Fr Colum Cunningham and Fr John Fogarty. Fr Cunningham is based at Rockwell College while Fr Fogarty was elected worldwide Spiritan/Holy Ghost superior general in Rome last June. Dermot’s allegations were put to the Spiritan/Holy Ghost Fathers. A spokesman responded that “whilst we cannot comment on the specifics of the allegations, we can say, with profound regret, that the form of abuse described is consistent with complaints that we have received about the priests mentioned”, including Fr Meagher.