Bishop denies consorting with prostitutes

 

BISHOP Comiskey said he had made only three trips to Thailand in the early 1990s, and not the six reported in some newspapers. He had been there about six times in the past 35 years, including some "long before I became a bishop".

On one occasion he had stayed "practically on top of a mountain with another Irish bishop". On another he was on the way to give a mission in Japan where he had always dreamed of going as a missionary. Two further trips were with his diocesan secretary, Father Tommy Brennan.

He had never stayed in a hotel costing £800 per night. That price for two weeks, plus a £4,300 first class return flight to Bangkok, represented two years' salary for him.

He said an Irish travel agency was running bargains at that time for £1.200 for a fortnight's holiday, and he had paid a couple of hundred pounds extra for a single room.

Thousands of Irish people had gone to Thailand at such prices. He had met 50 Irish people in the Royal Cliff Hotel at East Coast Siam and not nearby Pattaya or Bangkok including 19 from Wexford. He hoped that the Clare hurling team, which had holidayed in Thailand, would not be accused as he had been.

He responded to another questioner "If you're asking was I out consorting with prostitutes, I was not."

He said that he was never arrested and jailed at Bangkok airport. He had not been allowed "through the immigration" there having lost his passport, and had had to wait two days because it was a bank holiday in Ireland.

In the end, he was given a US passport after ringing the papal nuncio in Bangkok.

He did not think such holidays were an extravagance. They were his only hobby and he felt he was entitled to use gifts from friends to finance them.

But "seeing that such a big issue has been made of it, it would destroy any further holidays I would intend to have in Thailand," he added.

Bishop Comiskey began the question and answer session of the press conference by saying he had handed the file containing the newspaper allegations, made against him in his absence, to his solicitor.

He was not doing this out of any sense of revenge but, referring to the libel case taken by Marian Finucane of RTE, he added "I think you'll agree that my good name and my good character is also essential to my office as bishop."

He admitted that he did not always act in accordance with the 1987 Department of Health guidelines on reporting child sex abuse. In one case he had sent an accuser and an accused to their respective doctors, telling the doctors to look up the guidelines. The doctors sent them back, saying they did not know what the bishop was talking about.

He said there was at least one case, "an old case", which he did not report to the Garda, thinking that it could be handled by removing the priest and treating him. Even as late as last year he had had "a very vigorous argument" with one priest who said he would never report or "inform" on another priest.

Bishop Comiskey said that there had been six cases of allegations against named priests in his diocese.

He had removed one priest to allow an investigation to take place. After "vigorous representation" from his therapist, however, he had reappointed him alter two years. He would not have done that today.

In another, he had removed a priest but the Human Life Institute in Connecticut, "supposed to be one of the best treatment centres in the world", strongly recommended that this priest "must be given back his post". He had refused and had come in for "considerable abuse".

Asked whether he had ever been warned before Father Jim Doyle's conviction for child sex abuse in 1990 that he was a risk to children, Dr Comiskey said he was not to the best of his recollection, but he asked to be able to check his records before he gave a definitive response.

Asked why he had used his nephew a Dublin solicitor also called Brendan Comiskey to buy an apartment in Donnybrook in 1988, he said it was because it was "a personal purchase" using his own money the diocesan solicitor had, however, been kept informed.

He said £18,000 had been his own money and the 75 per cent balance had been a Bank of Ireland loan. In those days, before he started to receive a separate salary of £20,000 per year, he would have been paid out of the diocese's Central Fund, and the cheques would have been drawn on that fund.

Asked why the diocesan debt had risen sharply in 1992 and 1993, Bishop Comiskey said one of the principal reasons was that there had been "a huge bill" for seminarians' fees, which had risen from around £200 per year in the 1970s to £4,000 per year in the 1990s.