Senior cleric investigating Walsh 'evaded' telling gardaí of abuse

 

MONSIGNOR ALEX STENSON:A SENIOR cleric did not tell gardaí of paedophile priest Tony Walsh’s past when they questioned him, the Murphy report reveals.

Msgr Alex Stenson, who is now the parish priest of Killester in Dublin, had been investigating Walsh’s paedophile tendencies for six years when gardaí sought to interview him about a complaint in 1991 made by the parents of a young boy who Walsh had attempted to abuse.

When asked by a garda if Walsh had a record of paedophilia, Msgr Stenson replied: “I evaded that but told him to proceed with whatever steps he thought he should take.”

Msgr Stenson told the Murphy commission that he acted within the bounds of the oath of secrecy as chancellor of the archdiocese of Dublin.

The commission concluded that a criminal investigation which began in 1991 was “effectively shelved” because the church was carrying out its own investigation.

Later Msgr Stenson did tell gardaí where Walsh was living. Msgr Stenson was chancellor to three archbishops and was asked to investigate Walsh by the then archbishop of Dublin Kevin McNamara in 1985 when at least seven priests were aware of Walsh’s abusing tendencies.

Msgr Stenson’s initial investigation could find no concrete evidence of abuse.

He described it as “ill-informed gossip”.

Following further complaints, Msgr Stenson confronted Walsh who “denied nothing” and was made see a psychiatrist.

In 1986 Walsh was moved from his parish in Ballyfermot to Westland Row where he abused again.

Msgr Stenson told the commission that the seriousness of Walsh’s condition was not known at that point, although the archdiocese was aware of four specific complaints and a number of concerns. Walsh admitted to abusing three children.

Msgr Stenson made various attempts to deal with Walsh asking him to write out an account of his difficulties and he sent him for treatment in the UK in 1988.

After further psychiatric reports, archbishop Desmond Connell and Msgr Stenson told Walsh to leave the priesthood or be dismissed.

A formal process of inquiry began in March 1991 after another period of therapy and further allegations of abuse.

It was while one of these allegations was being investigated that Msgr Stenson failed to reveal Walsh’s history to a garda.

The commission was told that Walsh believed Msgr Stenson was trying to get him removed from the ministry.

The commission also revealed that Msgr Stenson warned Walsh on several occasions not to go near children or pass himself off as a practising priest.

When visited yesterday at his home in Killester and asked for a comment, Msgr Stenson responded: “I haven’t even heard the news. There is something on the news today and I want to catch up with it. I’ll see you again.”

He then closed the door.

The commission said there had been repeated clashes between Msgr Stenson, who was praised by the Murphy report on a previous occasion, and his predecessor the late msgr Gerard Sheehy.

Msgr Sheehy was adamant that Walsh should have not been suspended but should have been persuaded to leave the priesthood.

Msgr Sheehy said at a 1991 meeting that it was an “outrageous suggestion” that the civil authorities should be called in relation to Walsh.

He also counselled against any “excessive reaction no matter what the civil law might say” when knowledge of Walsh’s abuse became public.