'He was in loads of houses in Ballyfermot and nobody knew'

 

THERE WAS a strong sense of disgust and betrayal yesterday in Tony Walsh’s former parish of Ballyfermot as the details of his abuse and the church’s handling of it emerged.

Angela Copley, a community activist who supported victims of Walsh, said it was a very emotional day for all the victims and their families.

She said she had met people, who had lost relatives through suicide at the time and she feared some of them could have been victims of Walsh.

Billy, a local man in his 60s who did not want to give his full name, recalled with anger the photos he had at home of Walsh standing with his children as they made their First Holy Communion. “I never knew what he was up to. He was just another priest, otherwise he would never have got into any photographs. He was in my house, He was in loads of houses in Ballyfermot and nobody knew.”

Other locals tried to connect the sociable priest they remembered with the paedophile he has since been revealed as.

“I thought he was lovely because we used to go to the all-priest shows with women’s clubs,” said Ballyfermot resident Mary Royal. She remembered him saying Mass in the house for her children and how one of her sons “idolised him”.

Eileen (62) a grandmother who did not want to give her full name, remembers Walsh as always being surrounded by children. Eileen, who described herself as “very religious” had stopped going to Mass since details of the abuse emerged. “I was a real churchgoer but I never go to church now. I stopped after all that. I think it’s disgraceful.”

Speaking on RTÉ, one of Walsh’s victims said he felt “vindicated” following yesterday’s publication of chapter 19 of the Murphy report. The victim, who was abused by Walsh in 1978-79 and was identified as “Seán”, told Livelinehe had waited 33 years for the moment of vindication but he wished it could have happened 10 years earlier.

One in Four, a group representing the victims of sexual abuse, welcomed publication of the chapter, which it said detailed the catastrophic failure of the church to deal with a serial sex offender.

Connect, which was established by the Health Service Executive at the request of survivors of abuse, said it would open its telephone counselling service this evening and tomorrow evening from 6pm to 10pm. This service provides professional counselling at 1800-477 477.