Cardinal offers to meet abuse victims


Cardinal Desmond Connell has invited two victims of clerical child sex abuse to meet him in advance of a planned protest during which they were to call for his resignation.

The offer has been accepted by Mr Ken Reilly and Ms Marie Collins, who had announced their intention to mount a silent protest on January 5th to demand the Cardinal resign as Archbishop of Dublin.

Last night, Ms Collins said the invitation was a "very hopeful sign" that the Cardinal's approach to dealing with the clerical sex abuse issue had changed.

The meeting is to take place on December 30th, six years to the day since Cardinal Connell last met Ms Collins. The two have given differing accounts of what was said at the 1996 meeting, but Ms Collins's version was last week corroborated by a priest who was also present.

It is understood that Cardinal Connell would have met Ms Collins and Mr Reilly on January 5th, when they were to deliver a letter calling for his resignation, except that he is to fly to Rome the day before for the episcopal ordination of a friend.

A spokeswoman said the Cardinal had "the very strong feeling that he should not take off without speaking to them".

But she added the archdiocese did not consider demands for his resignation justified, adding: "It's not Boston."

Speaking on Radio One's Today with Pat Kenny programme yesterday, Ms Collins said she believed the Cardinal's resignation was the necessary first step before the church in Dublin could make the changes necessary in the way it dealt with clerical abuse and its victims.

Also interviewed on the programme was the Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin, Dr Eamon Walsh, who said the two sides should meet. The invitation to talks was made personally to Ms Collins by Cardinal Connell.

Speaking last night, Ms Collins said her position had not changed, "but I'm hopeful that maybe Cardinal Connell has moved forward since [the last meeting]."

Mr Reilly also welcomed the move as "very significant".