Survivors welcome inquiry pledge into complaints against paedophile

Frances Fitzgerald backs investigation into role of State bodies in Bill Kenneally case

Sex abuse survivors have welcomed a commitment by the Tánaiste to set up a Commission of Investigation into the handling of complaints against convicted paedophile, Bill Kenneally.

Jason Clancy, who triggered the investigation that led to Kenneally's conviction when he made a complaint to gardaí in 2012, welcomed the news.

"It's important that this happens as soon as possible as enough time has already elapsed and best evidence can be lost as has happened with the death of Kenneally's uncle, Msgr John Shine earlier this year," he said.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald updated Cabinet on Wednesday after considering a request from some of Kenneally's victims to set up an investigation into the handling of complaints against Kenneally.


Kenneally from Laragh, Summerville Ave, Waterford, was sentenced to 14 years in jail at Waterford Circuit Criminal Court in February 2016 after he pleaded guilty to 10 sample counts that he indecently assaulted 10 boys between October 31st, 1984, and December 31st, 1987.

But 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.

Commission of inquiry

The group met Ms Fitzgerald earlier this year and pressed her to set up a full 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 gardaí in 1987 to say that Kenneally was abusing their son.

On Wednesday, 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 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 of Justice said in a statement.

“However, in view of the fact that Garda investigations into more recent complaints are still ongoing, the Tánaiste is anxious not to impinge on the rights of other victims to have their complaints fully considered, and, if possible, prosecuted.

“Therefore the Tánaiste intends to consult with the Attorney General to consider the effects of establishing a Commission of Investigation with a view to supporting all of the victims involved in having their complaints heard and their rights vindicated.”

Mr Clancy said that he was confident that the discussions between Ms Fitzgerald and the Attorney General would allow the investigation to proceed without having any impact on any future criminal cases that might arise on foot of new complaints that have since been made against Kenneally.

“We don’t believe this investigation will be prejudicial to any future trial, as Bill Kenneally has already been sentenced for his crimes against us and what we want investigated is the role of State bodies and their handling of complaints of abuse made against him,” he said.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times