Angela Copley founder of Ballyfermot abuse survivors’ group dies

‘To say I was humbled and honoured to have her in my life would be an understatement’

Angela Copley set up a support group for clerical child abuse survivors in Dublin’s Ballyfermot. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Angela Copley set up a support group for clerical child abuse survivors in Dublin’s Ballyfermot. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

Angela Copley, who set up a support group for clerical child abuse survivors in Dublin’s Ballyfermot, “mothered” many in the area, her son Derek recalled on Friday at her funeral mass.

“Myself and Gary are her sons but there’s a lot of sons and daughters out there my Ma helped, that she mothered through the years,” he told mourners at St Matthew’s Church.

Mrs Copley died on Tuesday at Our Lady’s Hospice, Harold’s Cross. Her husband Tim died three weeks before.

Derek recallled how one Christmas Day “the door rang”.

A stranger asked: “‘is Angela there?’ and she said ‘bring him in, bring him in’. I thought it was just another visitor til he sat down and Ma starts bringing out the dinner. There was an extra plate there and I said ‘I suppose I’d better get to know ya’.”

It was, he said, “very typical. It was kind of funny in a way, the seriousness of what she dealt with. After a while it became normalised in our house”.

One survivor she helped was Darren McGavin, whose evidence led to former priest Tony Walsh being jailed for 16 years in December 2010.

Speaking from the altar, he remembered how he was panicking the first time he went to see her.

“She came out to the door to me and, the little nod – ‘howya’. I says ‘can I have a talk with you?’, and she said ‘we’ll have a cup of tea and we’ll go somewhere private’. And we just started talking. That was 21 years ago.

“To say I was humbled and honoured to have her in my life would be an understatement. It would be an insult.”

“There are many people like me in the Ballyfermot area,” said Mr McGavin, who later became a counsellor.

Priest Tony Walsh

He thanked others for their help, including mass celebrant Fr David Lumsden and Det Garda Brendan Walsh, who was the prosecuting garda in the case of notorious paedophile priest Tony Walsh.

This was greeted with loud applause from the congregation. Det Garda Walsh is retired and now lives in Enniscrone.

“When I first met Brendan in Ballyfermot Garda station to give the statement, I’d never seen a guard step out of a room so much in temper and anger,” McGavin said. “Before we left the station that day he said to me ‘this case is going to see me into retirement’ and it did. It took that long to get Fr Tony Walsh, at the time, locked up. We got him convicted in 2010.”

Fr Lumsden,who celebrated the mass from a wheelchair, spoke of the work Angela Copley did “for people in this parish who had been abused as children by priests of the parish”.

He recalled Ms Copley’s role in the case of Walsh, who was jailed for child abuse. When the case was almost over Fr Lumsden and Angela went to the archbishop’s house and asked for money “to bring the seven victims, their mothers and fathers, and their families that are with them, round to the Legal Eagle [restaurant] after the sentencing, to celebrate”.

“That night Angela had the great idea. She decided to set up a support group. Since then she’s been working, working, working, tirelessly. I’d say to those lads – I don’t know if there’s any of them here – pray hard to Angela. Keep talking to Angela.”

Chief mourners were Angela and Tim Copley’s two sons Gary and Derek.

The mass was followed by cremation at Mount Jerome.