Brendan Smyth denied his abuse had damaged Catholic Church

Paedophile priest wrote to late Cardinal Daly from Derry prison, inquiry told

Paedophile priest Brendan Smyth wrote to the late Cardinal Cahal Daly from prison to deny that his sexual abuse of boys and girls had caused serious damage to the Catholic Church, the Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry heard on Tuesday.

Smyth, it emerged at the inquiry, was angered that Cardinal Daly had publicly stated that the allegations against Smyth had “done serious damage to the church”.

Smyth, who was convicted in 1994 for sexual abuse of children in Northern Ireland, wrote from Magilligan Prison in Co Derry to Cardinal Daly protesting at his remarks.

He said if the cardinal had been misquoted then he could dump the letter but if he had been properly quoted then he had to “express my anger and disbelief that a person with your lofty intellectual qualifications could possibly have made such a statement”.


“Whatever my sins and failing, and they are many, it is not they but the media reporting of them which has created an atmosphere of mixed shame and embarrassment for the superficial Catholic,” he added in the letter.

“I should say I did not in any way create or encourage the media extravaganza. Rather the contrary, I pleaded guilty to wildly exaggerated and in some instances false charges to try to limit media coverage. In that I admit I failed dismally,” said Smyth.

He said the Catholic Church was “God’s gift” and that “as a moderately informed Catholic Christian I do not believe it is possible for anyone to damage the church”.

Smyth went on to predict that the Church would emerge renewed and possibly strengthened from all the publicity, anger and controversy that his abuse had generated.

“The present unsavoury tempest is a testing, trying, proving experience form which the church will emerge renewed and (if possible) strengthened,” he wrote.

On Thursday the retired Archbishop of Armagh Cardinal Sean Brady who as far back as 1975 heard allegations of sexual abuse against Fr Brendan Smyth, is to give evidence at the Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry in Banbridge.

This week the inquiry is examining how Smyth carried out sexual abuse at three care homes, Rubane House Boys Home, run by the De La Salle Order in Kircubbin, Co Down, and homes on the Ormeau and Ravenhill roads in Belfast run by the Sisters of Nazareth.

Rather than hearing from the victims the focus this week is on how and why the Catholic Church and the Norbertine Order failed the boys and girls who were abused by Smyth.

Smyth, who died in prison of a heart attack in 1997, was arrested in 1991 over allegations of abuse in the North. He evaded facing court by staying at the Norbertine Kilnacrott Abbey in Co Cavan.

His case contributed to the collapse of the Fianna Fáil-Labour coalition Government in 1994 over delays and errors in his extradition from the Republic to Northern Ireland.

He served three years in prison in the North and upon release was extradited to the Republic. He was serving a 12-year sentence in the Republic when he died in prison.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times