Former head of Christian Brothers to drop legal action over freedom of city vote

Br Edmund Garvey had launched judicial review following councillors vote to rescind Freedom of Drogheda award

The former head of the Christian Brothers has said he intends to drop a judicial review filed in recent days against Louth County Council, which planned to challenge a vote taken to effectively rescind the Freedom of Drogheda from him.

Councillors on the Drogheda borough district voted in September to no longer acknowledge a previous award granting Br Edmund Garvey the Freedom of Drogheda.

The vote followed a campaign by survivors who were sexually abused as children by members of the Christian Brothers, opposing a legal strategy adopted when Br Garvey was head of the congregation, which makes it more difficult for claimants to advance civil cases.

Court records show Br Garvey had launched a judicial review against Louth County Council and Drogheda borough district. Br Garvey is represented by Frank Buttimer & Company solicitors in the case, which was lodged on Monday.


In a statement on Wednesday, Br Garvey said he had “contemplated” taking a legal challenge “in respect of certain process and governance matters relating to a Drogheda Borough Council decision”.

The former senior Christian Brother said “preliminary paperwork” had been filed to the court “in light of time-bound considerations”, such as time limits within which a judicial review must be lodged. “A decision to not proceed had been taken and is now being communicated to the court,” he said.

The vote was passed by the Drogheda borough district by five votes to four, following a tense debate.

Joan Martin, chief executive of the Louth County Council, told councillors that Br Garvey’s previous entry in the roll of those awarded the freedom of Drogheda would be updated to reflect the recent vote of the council.

Ms Martin told the borough meeting she was “concerned” that the council did not have “a specific power” to remove the freedom of Drogheda from an individual, but would implement the decision.

The motion was proposed by Labour Party councillor Emma Cutlip, who said it was a “ceremonial” gesture in support of survivors of child sexual abuse.

Br Garvey, who stepped down as head of the Christian Brothers in Ireland last year, was born in Drogheda.

The campaign to rescind the honour had been led by Damian O’Farrell, a survivor of sexual abuse at the hands of a Christian Brother who was later convicted.

The legal strategy adopted by the Christian Brothers under Br Garvey saw the congregation refuse to provide a nominee to act on its behalf in legal cases.

In refusing to provide a nominee in civil cases, survivors of historical child sexual abuse seeking compensation from the order must sue all brothers from the time who are still alive. The strategy has been strongly criticised by survivors and their legal representatives as obstructive.

Br Garvey, who was awarded the freedom of the town in 1997, did not comment on the council’s decision to rescind the honour at the time.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times