A glimpse once again of the old Comiskey


NEVER shaken or visibly stirred, the Bishop of Ferns, Dr Brendan Comiskey, gave an assured and suave performance at his official encounter with the media in St Peter's College, Wexford, yesterday.

For 10 days at the Bishop's Palace, he had been preparing his answers to allegations about the handling of diocesan funds and sex abuse allegations and about his holidays in Bangkok a cocktail of accusations which had built up over his five month absence in the US.

The press conference was a very carefully orchestrated event which, for the most part, ran smoothly. After being ushered in, journalists took their seats and awaited the bishop. From the front of the room at a table, with seven microphones placed in front of him, the bishop read his statement, detailing his defence without interruption.

The press conference was opened by Enniscorthy curate Father Peter O'Connor, who, the bishop said, was chairing his first press conference. Behind him sat Ms Barbara Wallace, occasionally beckoning to the priest to whisper in his ear.

There was no sign of Father Walter Forde, the man who spoke for the bishop during his five month absence he was in Gorey saying Mass at the funeral of IRA bomber Ed O'Brien.

The other members of the bishop's team were his doctor, Dr Paddy McKiernan, diocesan accountant Mr Liam Gaynor, diocesan secretary Father Tommy Brennan, and solicitor Mr Noel Smyth.

Some cynics might say that the press conference had been "perfectly" timed. It was held on the day after the local newspapers had already printed and it competed for coverage with the O'Brien funeral and the Anglo Irish summit.

The first questioner asked if the bishop intended suing those publications which had made allegations and from there the ball began rolling.

The bishop was calm, answered with authority and never came close to closing his temper. At times he even joked, giving a glimpse of the Bishop Comiskey of old.

When Sunday Independent journalist Veronica Guerin mentioned a solicitor also named Brendan Comiskey who had handled the purchase of his Donnybrook apartment, the bishop suggested she might give him a plug since the solicitor Comiskey had set up his own practice. He told the Cork Examiner journalist, T.P. O'Mahony, that he would "have him around for a party again soon" and that he had absolutely no intention of retiring from his position. Star journalist Senan Maloney had travelled to Bangkok to investigate the bishop's trips and Dr Comiskey asked him if he had enjoyed the trip.

Much of the press conference was taken up with questions about sex abuse, particularly the Monageer case. It was the one aspect of allegations which the bishop had not covered in detail in his statement and, instead, took questions on it.

Yesterday was Bishop Comiskey's day but it remains to be seen if his answers will satisfy the clergy and the people of Wexford who had many, many questions for their bishop.