O'Gorman abuse case settled for €300,000

Mr Colm O'Gorman, the founder of the One In Four organisation set up to help victims of child sexual abuse, has settled his claim…

Mr Colm O'Gorman, the founder of the One In Four organisation set up to help victims of child sexual abuse, has settled his claim against the Diocese of Ferns for €300,000, along with an admission of negligence by the diocese.

Mr O'Gorman, who was sexually abused by the late Father Sean Fortune between 1981 and 1983, was not in the High Court yesterday morning when a statement on behalf of the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese, Bishop Eamonn Walsh, was read into the record. In it the bishop "admits negligence" and agrees to pay Mr O'Gorman compensation and costs.

The statement said Bishop Walsh "acknowledges and sincerely regrets the distress, trauma and hurt" and "further acknowledges the failure of the bishop at that time to recognise and act on the threat posed by the late Father Fortune".

The Bishop of Ferns between 1964 and 1983, Dr Donal Herlihy, died in April 1983.


Asked whether the former Bishop of Ferns, Dr Brendan Comiskey, had had any role in the wording of yesterday's statement, a spokesman for the bishop said he had not.

Speaking after the High Court hearing at the One In Four offices in Dublin, Mr O'Gorman said it was "really hard" to put into words the significance of yesterday for him.

"Today, for the very first time, following huge public and media pressure, the Catholic Church has finally acknowledged what many in Irish society had believed for a number of years: that the church authorities were negligent in how they handled and responded to cases of clerical sexual abuse and that such negligence had led to the abuse of more and more children."

He accepted the statement "in good faith", saying he valued it but added: "It is the least that any person harmed in such a way has an absolute right to expect from those responsible."

It was particularly significant, he said, that the admission of negligence had been read into the record of the High Court.

"I hope, above all else, that it will mark an end to the adversarial and legalistic approach adopted by bishops and church leaders" to victims of clerical abuse.

He further hoped yesterday's development would make it possible for others who had been abused to "name their hurt and to come forward to seek support and care".

Urging all those affected by clerical sexual abuse in the Diocese of Ferns to take part in the non-statutory Ferns Inquiry - established last month by the Minister for Health, Mr Martin - Mr O'Gorman said it had been significant in making yesterday's settlement possible. "It is vital work, as I believe it will determine the truth of what happened in Ferns and most importantly inform how we proceed in the many hundreds of cases beyond Ferns."

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times