Man cleared to sue diocese instead of deceased priest


The High Court has cleared the way for a man in his 60s to sue the Catholic Diocese of Clonfert over alleged sexual and physical abuse when he was an altar boy by a priest who has since died.

As the priest is no longer alive he sued the Bishop of Clonfert, Dr John Kirby, in his capacity as nominee of the diocese. It is claimed the abuse occurred in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Peter Charleton dismissed a pretrial motion by the bishop aimed at having the action struck out on grounds of inordinate and inexcusable delay. He ruled the balance of justice permitted the trial proceed.

Rossa Fanning, for the bishop, had argued the delay meant a real risk of an unfair trial. Bishop Kirby had conducted a detailed investigation of diocesan records and could find no complaints or allegations against the priest, counsel said.

As far as the bishop was aware, apart from these allegations, no other complaints were made against the priest, he said.

While the bishop was not saying he did not believe the man’s claims, he contended because of the lengthy passage of time and the fact the potential witnesses were long since dead, the bishop could not properly defend the case.

Opposing the motion, John Nolan argued the delay, while inordinate, was excusable.

The judge placed a stay on his order pending any appeal to the Supreme Court.