Commission of Inquiry to examine Bill Kenneally case

Inquiry will examine role of gardaí, HSE and church in handling abuse complaint in 1980s

Victims of paedophile Bill Kenneally have welcomed confirmation a judge has been appointed to head up a commission of inquiry into the handling of complaints against him in the 1980s.

Jason Clancy, who triggered the investigation which led to Kenneally's conviction when he made a complaint to gardaí in 2012, said he welcomed the news that retired Circuit Court Judge Barry Hickson will head up the inquiry, which was established by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald.

“We are absolutely delighted with this news as we have been campaigning for this ever since Bill Kenneally was convicted in February 2016 of abusing us so it’s great that it’s finally going to get off the ground and hopefully find out what happened when complaints were made in the 1980s.”

The Department of Justice confirmed the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry in correspondence to solicitor Darragh Mackin of Belfast firm KRW Law, who represents Mr Clancy and five other men who were abused by Kenneally in his home in Waterford in the 1980s.


According to Mr Clancy, the department indicated in its correspondence that the Commission of Inquiry will not formally begin until a number of legal issues identified by Attorney General Marie Whelan have been resolved.

Mr Clancy said he and his fellow survivors are interpreting this as a reference to the fact that a number of other men have since come forward to gardaí to make complaints against Kenneally and these have to be investigated before the commission can begin its work.

"After almost eight months, our clients have today been vindicated by the Minister's decision to conduct a commission of investigation," Mr Mackin said. "This decision is a true testament to the hard work by our clients', and their wider campaign, in ensuring that the truth would be uncovered.

“We now look forward to actively engaging with the inquiry to ensure that the truth is uncovered in an effective and expeditious manner, and that those who were involved and complicit in this myriad of failings are identified.”

Kenneally from Laragh, Summerville Ave in Waterford was sentenced to 14 years in prison by Judge Eugene O'Kelly at Waterford Circuit Criminal Court in February 2016. He had pleaded guilty to 10 sample counts that he indecently assaulted 10 boys between October 31st 1984 and December 31st 1987.

Mr Clancy and five of his fellow victims have lobbied for a full inquiry into the Garda handling of complaints against Kenneally after it emerged during the sentencing hearing that gardaí in Waterford were aware as far back as 1987 of a complaint of sex abuse against the sports coach.

The group met Ms Fitzgerald earlier this year and pressed her to set up a commission of inquiry to look into what gardaí, members of the HSE and figures in the Catholic Church knew and did after a family contacted the Garda in 1987 to say that Kenneally was abusing their son.

Last month, Ms Fitzgerald paid tribute to “the courage and determination of the victims in pursuing this matter as well as their entitlement to get answers to many of the serious questions surrounding the handling of their complaints.”

The Department of Justice said that Ms Fitzgerald believed “in view of the serious issues raised about the actions and attitudes of various persons in positions of authority ..... the balance of the public interest may make it appropriate to move towards the establishment of a further inquiry.”

"This would inquire into the handling of the case by State agencies, including An Garda Síochána, as well as the role of Church and other figures," the department said in a statement issued following Tuesdays' Cabinet meeting, during which Ms Fitzgerald briefed her colleagues on the inquiry.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times