Murphy Report: Background And Composition


THE DUBLIN commission came about because of the RTÉ Prime Timeprogramme Cardinal Secrets, broadcast in October 2002. Produced by Mary Raftery, with Mick Peelo reporting, it investigated the handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations in Dublin’s Catholic archdiocese.

The then minister for justice, Michael McDowell, said he was “very alarmed” by the programme, which he found “deeply disturbing”. It led to the Commission of Investigation Act 2004, which allowed for the setting up of a type of inquiry which was more cost-effective and efficient than a tribunal.

Under that Act the Commission of Investigation, Dublin Archdiocese was set up in March 2006, with a brief to report within 18 months. Chaired by Ms Justice Yvonne Murphy (left), assisted by barrister Ita Mangan and solicitor Hugh O’Neill, it was to investigate the handling of allegations of clerical child sex abuse in Dublin’s Catholic archdiocese by church and State authorities covering the period January 1st, 1975 to April 30th, 2004 (when Cardinal Connell stepped down as Archbishop of Dublin).

The commission’s work was done in private with confidentiality expected from and assured for participants.

Owing to the volume of material dealt with, concerning allegations against a sample of 46 accused priests, the commission sought time extensions. It presented its report to Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern last July. As some of the priests dealt with are before the courts the Minister sought the Attorney General’s guidance and was advised to seek the advice of the High Court. The edited report was not cleared for publication until November by Mr Justice Paul Gilligan.

Judge Yvonne Murphy is no stranger to the issue of child sex abuse. As a judge of the Circuit Court since April 1998, most of which she served in the Circuit Criminal Court, she presided over dozens, if not hundreds, of cases involving the abuse of children by relatives, teachers, clergy and others.

Among the cases she heard was one where the female victim of alleged incest sought to have her accused brother identified, but Judge Murphy ruled that this was not permitted by law. This ruling was later upheld by the High Court. From 2003 until her appointment to head the commission she also sat on the Special Criminal Court.

Before her appointment as judge she was a junior counsel, married to Adrian Hardiman, who was one of the best-known senior counsel before his appointment direct from the bar to the Supreme Court bench. The couple have three sons, of whom one is a barrister. Although she qualified as a barrister in 1971, she first worked as a civil servant, air hostess and as a journalist between 1971 and 1984. She was an RTÉ presenter and edited Industrial Relations News. She is the author of Journalists and the Law and Insider Dealing in Ireland.

She was special adviser to former tánaiste, Labour leader Michael O’Leary, though she was later considered to be closer to the PDs than the Labour Party. She was called to the bar in both England and Northern Ireland as well as in Ireland. She was born in Co Donegal and worked on the Northern circuit.

Ita Mangan BL was called to the bar in 1987, but never practised, working in welfare rights until her appointment to the commission. Solicitor Hugh O’Neill qualified in 1980 and worked with Marcus Lynch, solicitor, prior to his appointment.