Clearing of name of Kerry priest falsely accused raises ‘matters of great concern’

Association of Catholic Priests says priests are now ‘an easy target’ with considerable number of false allegations

Bishop of Kerry Bill Murphy: welcomed apology.

The clearing of the name of Kerry priest Fr Liam O’Brien who was falsely accused by a woman of abuse, has highlighted “two matters of great concern,” the leadership of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) has said.

The association said there are a considerable number of false allegations being made against individuals.

“We have known of this for some time. Priests are now an easy target, and there are a considerable number of false allegations being made against individuals,” they said.

And there was "the absence, in most cases including this one, of any real support from church authorities for a priest who finds himself in this terrible situation."

Apology
On Wednesday, Eileen Culloty apologised at the High Court in Dublin to Fr O'Brien whom she had falsely accused of abusing her.

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In a brief statement last night the Bishop of Kerry, Bill Murphy, welcomed Ms Culloty’s apology at the High Court “in relation to a series of untrue allegations she made against Fr O’Brien”.

He said: “As bishop I have a pastoral responsibility to the faithful in the Diocese of Kerry, and in particular a duty of care to my priests. In the case of Fr Liam O’Brien I am delighted that the truth has been established. Fr O’Brien is a priest in good standing. I met with Fr Liam O’Brien on a number of occasions and discussed the situation with him.”

He added that a “Care of Priests” group had been established a number of years ago in the diocese with the role of supporting priests.

Building supports for priests will continue to be a priority in the Diocese of Kerry into the future, he said.

Allegations
In December 2008, Ms Culloty, who lives beside the presbytery at Currow, Killarney, Co Kerry, wrote a letter to Bishop Murphy in which she made the untrue allegations against Fr O'Brien. These she later repeated to gardaí, the Health Service Executive and the Personal Injuries Assessment Board. In February 2011 she disrupted a funeral in Currow at which Fr O'Brien officiated.

In a letter read at the High Court this week she undertook never to repeat the false allegations. She also apologised for the funeral incident and said she accepted Fr O’Brien was a priest of the utmost integrity and that he never behaved in any untoward way.

Robert Dore, solicitor for Fr O’Brien who is based in Killorglin, Co Kerry, said the priest had agreed not to proceed with an action against Ms Culloty on the basis of her apology.

The ACP said it was “delighted” that Fr O’Brien’s “long nightmare” was over. It thanked Mr Dore and the legal team for “the great work done” and wished Fr O’Brien well in the future.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times