Bishop denies he knew priest continued abusing


THE BISHOP of Clonfert, John Kirby, has denied reports in this newspaper yesterday that he “had knowledge or suspicion” that a priest known as “Priest A” continued to abuse children subsequent to him learning of the cleric’s conduct in October 1990.

He also stated that contrary to what was reported, he had not been “aware of an acknowledgement by Priest A that he abused any child subsequent to October 1990”.

Bishop Kirby said this was the date when he first learned of the priest’s sexual abuse of a child.

He denied also that he (Bishop Kirby) was in receipt of any complaint and said: “I have neither knowledge nor suspicion that Priest A abused a child in either of the parishes of Kiltormer or Creagh subsequent to October 1990.”

Yesterday’s report in The Irish Times said Bishop Kirby “has been aware since the mid-1990s that a priest he moved following allegations of child sex abuse continued to abuse children in his new parish, contrary to statements by the bishop last month.”

It said the priest, who was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment in 1994 for the sexual abuse of one child in Co Galway, told Bishop Kirby in the mid-1990s he had abused 17 children in the diocese. It said this emerged when Bishop Kirby visited the priest while he was serving his jail sentence at Arbour Hill between 1994 and 1998.

The report further said: “In 1990, when the priest, referred to as ‘Priest A’ in a recent report by the Catholic Church’s child protection watchdog, admitted to Bishop Kirby he had abused the boy concerned, he was moved to another parish where he abused more children.”

Yesterday’s report also stated that Bishop Kirby declined to respond to questions from The Irish Times on whether this priest abused children in his new parish after he was moved in 1990.

It said that this newspaper had independently verified that Bishop Kirby was aware of this information.

In his statement yesterday Bishop Kirby said that the claim by The Irish Times that he had knowledge or suspicion that Priest A continued to abuse children “subsequent to my learning of his conduct in October 1990, and that such abuse occurred in the parishes of Kiltormer and Creagh, Diocese of Clonfert, is incorrect”.

He said that “in seeking to correct the public record on this matter, I regret that this again could serve to exacerbate the hurt which my earlier widely publicised remarks have caused to victims of child sexual abuse and to their families”.

“I invited the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church to conduct its review of the Diocese of Clonfert in the knowledge that I would be found wanting but also in the hope that my publication of the resulting review would serve as a transparent and objective statement of the safeguarding record of the diocese.

“I published this review on September 5th last and believe that the review report has served this purpose. I have accepted any criticisms of my past actions and omissions and have apologised for them. I do so again today. I am committed to ensuring the implementation of all of its recommendations and to ensuring best practice in the safeguarding of children in the Diocese of Clonfert at all times.

“I do not intend to comment any further on the specific cases which arose in the diocese.

“The complete records of the diocese were made available to the National Board as part of its review.

“All complaints and suspicions of child sexual abuse known to me are also known to An Garda Síochána and to the Health Service Executive.”