St Patrick’s Cathedral criticised for response to child abuse

One of Patrick O’Brien’s victims calls for Church of Ireland to set up ‘outreach’ service

File image of Patrick O’Brien at Dublin District Court. File photograph: Court Collins

File image of Patrick O’Brien at Dublin District Court. File photograph: Court Collins

 

There have been calls for the Church of Ireland to set up an “outreach” service for all pupils of St Patrick’s Choir School who would have had contact with convicted child abuser Patrick O’Brien.

Patrick O’Brien was a member of the congregation at St Patrick’s Cathedral and treasurer of the independent fundraising body the Friends of St Patrick’s Cathedral over a 30-year period.

Last month, the 76-year-old pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 48 sample counts of child abuse at various locations across the State, including St Patrick’s Cathedral.

On Friday, St Patrick’s Cathedral said it deeply regretted that children were sexually abused by O’Brien.

However, one of O’Brien’s victims, Kerry Lawless, said he is unhappy with the language used in the cathedral’s statement, which appeared to distance O’Brien from cathedral management.

Mr Lawless said that in 2004 he spoke to the former dean of the cathedral, Robert MacCarthy, because of the continued presence of O’Brien at the cathedral 15 years after he was given a suspended sentence for abusing Mr Lawless.

O’Brien was subsequently removed from his role as an unpaid volunteer guide at the cathedral.

Mr Lawless said he wanted an end “to the fudge” that O’Brien had been a volunteer.

He said he also wanted the cathedral to contact each of the cathedral school choristers who may have been in contact with O’Brien over the 30 years that he was associated with the cathedral.

Mr Lawless said he hoped any further victims would be offered support.

Criticism

The Church of Ireland rector of Celbridge parish, Canon Stephen Neill, has also called for the Church of Ireland to “reach out to all [O’Brien’s] victims.

The canon criticised the cathedral’s statement as being mired in “legalese and damage limitation”.

He said that what was needed was “a proper apology”.