Gardaí knew of Brendan Smyth abuse in 1970s, inquiry told

Documents released to inquiry show priest officially diagnosed as a paedophile in 1974

Gardaí knew about the activities of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth (right) in the early 1970s, Northern Ireland’s Historical Abuse Inquiry has heard. Photograph: Alan Betson.

Gardaí knew about the activities of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth (right) in the early 1970s, Northern Ireland’s Historical Abuse Inquiry has heard. Photograph: Alan Betson.

 

Gardaí knew about the activities of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth in the early 1970s, Northern Ireland’s Historical Abuse Inquiry has heard.

Confidential documents from a psychiatric hospital in Dublin have revealed Smyth, who went on to abuse scores of children over four decades, had asked to be admitted after coming to the attention of gardaí in 1973.

Joseph Aiken, counsel for the inquiry said: “For some reason Brendan Smyth has asked the doctor looking after him to write a letter to Finglas Garda station to say that he is going to be taken in for some inpatient treatment.”

Smyth had been conducting a retreat in Finglas in July 1973.

The documents, which were only released to the long-running inquiry on Wednesday morning, also show how Smyth was officially diagnosed as a paedophile in 1974.

The hearing was delayed for several hours because the medical notes, which the Norbertine order had been trying to obtain for many years, were only released from St Patrick’s Hospital earlier in the morning.

In a letter to an officer at Finglas Garda station dated November 1st, 1973, Smyth’s psychiatrist said he was recommending the cleric be admitted for treatment.

“I have been asked to write to you by Fr Brendan Smyth of Holy Trinity Abbey, Kilnacrott,” the doctor said. “He has been a patient under my care for some months and I am familiar with the nature of his problems. I am writing to his superior suggesting that he should have a period of inpatient care in St Patrick’s Hospital or in St Edmonds Bury.”

The doctor said he hoped “this arrangement will be satisfactory to you and your superiors”.

According to a case summary dated February 1974, a doctor at St Patrick’s confirmed a diagnosis of paedophilia.

The note read: “Psychosexual difficulties for many years. First developed in the Novitiate. A recurring problem no matter where he has been stationed. His paedophilia has brought him into contact with the police.”

Smyth, originally from west Belfast but who was based at Kilnacrott Abbey in Co Cavan, was convicted of sexually assaulting more than 40 children in Northern Ireland in 1994.

But he told a treating doctor that the true number of victims could have run into the hundreds.

The inquiry, which is sitting in Banbridge Courthouse, is examining whether systemic failings enabled Smyth to continue his offending for so long.

PA