Listowel priest steps down


A priest who shook hands with a Listowel nightclub doorman awaiting sentencing in court for sexual assault has today stepped down.



The Bishop of Kerry Bill Murphy has accepted an offer by Fr Seán Sheehy to withdraw from his work in the parish of Castlegregory.

Fr Seán Sheehy, having retired from an American diocese, was substituting for the parish priest of Castlegregory. He had stood as a character witness at the sentencing of nightclub doorman Danny Foley (35).

The Bishop of Kerry yesterday disassociated himself from Fr Seán Sheehy, who shook hands with Foley, awaiting sentencing in court, and provided him a character reference in which he said he was always respectful to women.

Fr Sheehy was one of up to 50 people who queued in the courthouse in Tralee to shake hands with sex offender Danny Foley (35) and embrace Mr Foley before he was sentenced.

Foley (35), of Meen, Listowel, Co Kerry, was sentenced to seven years in jail, with the final two suspended, for sexually assaulting the woman outside a nightclub in Listowel in June 2008.

Director of the National Women's Council Susan McKay said the scenes in the courtroom of people queueing to shake hands with Foley before he was jailed have no place in a civilised society.

Ms McKay said it is “intolerable” that the victim had to suffer the “insulting and outrageous behaviour” of those who queueing and it “must never be allowed to happen again”.

Yesterday it emerged the victim of a sexual assault told counsellors she feels she may have to leave her home town having watched people queue in the courtroom sympathise with her attacker Dan Foley.

The victim had been discovered by a Garda patrol in a semiconscious state and naked from the waist down, alongside a skip in a car park near the nightclub.

Foley told gardaí he had found her there, but later changed his story when it emerged CCTV footage showed him carrying her from the club to the spot.

Ms McKay said: "This man used extreme violence against his victim, then lied about what he had done, forced her to go through a court case and denigrated her in his evidence.

“She was brave to bring her case, and brave to see it through. She deserves our respect and gratitude."

Sinn Féin’s Justice spokesman Aengus Ó Snodaigh said the scenes in the courtroom “sent out a dangerous and very negative signal to victims”.

He said the case underlines the urgent need for reform of procedures in the courts service.

"What we do not need is such cases being made all the more difficult by the type of scenes witnessed in Kerry this week,” he said.