Dr Comiskey to spend day with advisers to prepare responses

 

THE Bishop of Ferns will spend today with legal, financial and public relations advisers to prepare for a press conference expected later this week.

The two main areas Dr Comiskey will address are how he dealt with allegations of clerical sex abuse and how he managed diocesan finances.

He will spend today and part of tomorrow with his advisers in his house outside Wexford town. Advisers include his friend Mr Noel Smyth. a solicitor who is only a recent legal adviser; Ms Barbara Wallace, who advises him on public relations, and Mr Liam Gaynor, the diocesan accountant. They and the bishop will focus on queries concerning his handling of diocesan affairs. Tomorrow, he is expected to meet representatives from the Council of Priests.

It is understood Dr Comiskey returned to Ireland midweek, flying into Northern Ireland. On Thursday he joined an extended family gathering in Monaghan and was in Wexford on Friday night.

His first public appearance was at Mass in St Aidan's Cathedral, Enniscorthy, on Saturday night. A large congregation heard him apologise for his abrupt and unannounced departure to the US for alcoholism treatment and admit mistakes in his handling of child sex abuse cases.

However, he said he had never, ever put at risk a child's safety to protect any priest in my life". He had never, ever obstructed an investigation into the acts or omissions of any priest, directly or indirectly, under my authority or control", nor had he ever refused to be interviewed by gardai.

He condemned the "total lies" about him by some sections of the media. Two "lies" which had to be addressed straight away, he said, were the claims that he would never return to Ferns and that he had left last September "to escape the pain of confronting child sex abuse issues".

He said his family's good name had been dragged through the muck and mire of Ireland for motives which will be one day exposed".

He was repeatedly applauded by a section of the congregation and afterwards walked down the aisle shaking hands.

He also greeted the Church of Ireland Bishop of Cashel and Ossory, Rt Rev Noel Willoughby, whom he singled out for special thanks.

He had a cooler reception at Rowe Street church in Wexford at midday Mass yesterday when he read a shorter version of his five page address.

The Primate, Cardinal Daly, said in a statement on Saturday night that Dr Comiskey had phoned to say he was in Wexford and would celebrate Mass in Enniscorthy Cathedral. "On behalf of the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference, and on my own behalf, I assured him that he is welcome back in our midst."

The chairman of the Ferns Council of Priests, Father William Cosgrave, welcomed Dr Comiskey home yesterday with the words: "I am sure most, if not all, of the people of the diocese are happy he is back and are looking forward to the bishop addressing the issues he faces here."