Child abuser volunteered at St Patrick’s Cathedral after conviction
Wider Church of Ireland community ‘deeply dismayed’ at nature and extent of offences
St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin: “As I understand it, O’Brien was never an employee of the cathedral,” says former dean Robert Mac Carthy. Photograph: Dennis Flaherty
The former dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, Robert Mac Carthy, has said he removed convicted child abuser Patrick O’Brien from his role as an unpaid volunteer guide there in 2004 when informed of his past history.
“He was also stopped from taking up the collection on Christmas Eve,” Dean Mac Carthy told The Irish Times. “As I understand it, O’Brien was never an employee of the cathedral. The abuse referred to happened in a car (in the 1980s).”
While he had no recollection of speaking to the victim in 2004, Dean Mac Carthy added that he had “no doubt it happened”.
From that point on O’Brien “stopped frequenting the cathedral”, he said.
The abuse he was told about “happened before my time”, though he also recalled how a woman in the congregation at St Patrick’s “whose son was abused [by O’Brien], kept on agitating about it”.
The man who drew Dean Mac Carthy’s attention to O’Brien’s history in 2004 was Kerry Lawless (now 44), a former pupil at St Patrick’s grammar school and then a member of the cathedral boys choir. He was abused by O’Brien from the age of eight.
In 1987, aged 15, he told his parents, who informed gardaí. O’Brien pleaded guilty in a subsequent court case and received a two-year suspended sentence.
However, he was allowed to continue volunteering at St Patrick’s and, in time, resumed his abuse of children.
The dean of St Patrick’s until 1991 was Victor Griffin (92). A comment was sought from him but The Irish Times was informed that he is too ill to comment on the case. His successor, until 1999, was Dean Maurice Stewart, who died in 2004.
As reported in The Irish Times of May 26th, 2015, O’Brien was charged at the Dublin District Court with sexual abuse of 10 boys between 1977 and 1990, facing 75 counts of indecent assault at numerous locations throughout the State, including at St Patrick’s.
Last month the 76-year-old pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 48 sample counts of child abuse at various locations around the State, including St Patrick’s Cathedral.
Dean Mac Carthy suggested it was “a classic case of the courts not being tougher, earlier on”.
In a statement the Church of Ireland said: “St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, and the wider Church of Ireland community have been deeply dismayed at the nature and extent of the offences which have been brought to light in the ongoing case involving Patrick O’Brien. The church commends the courage of Patrick O’Brien’s victims in coming forward.”