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Sunday 28 May 2017

Bishop agreed 'secret deal'

Diocese denies covering up alleged child abuse settlement

Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

THE Bishop of Derry was involved in a 'secret deal' over an alleged child sex abuse case.

But Bishop Seamus Hegarty insisted last night the controversial confidentiality agreement was not proposed by his diocese.

A statement issued by the bishop said: "A confidentiality agreement was not proposed by the diocese, but was proposed to the diocese by one of the other parties, and, to facilitate a settlement, the diocese agreed.

"This agreement was in the year 2000, five years after the civil authorities were first aware of the matter."

However, it was unclear last night if it was a member of the clergy who reported the claims or if it was the alleged victim herself.

Bishop Hegarty, along with Bishop Edward Daly, who is remembered for waving a white handkerchief on Bloody Sunday, and the alleged abuser were named as defendants in an out-of-court settlement.

A woman, who claimed she was abused by a Derry priest from the age of eight, took a civil action against current Bishop of Derry, Dr Hegarty, his predecessor, retired Bishop Daly, and the alleged abuser.

That action was settled in 2000 without admission of liability with the priest agreeing to pay stg£12,000 in compensation to the woman and also giving her a letter of apology.

However, the settlement contained a confidentiality clause barring the woman from discussing the case.

The alleged abuse happened over a 10-year period starting in 1979 when the girl was eight years old.

The bishop said he met with senior RUC officers in October 1995 about the matter. The family brought the allegation to the attention of the diocese in January, 1994.

"A professional assessment of the priest was carried out. The diocese notified social services in May 1995. The priest left parish ministry in June 1995 and remains out of parish ministry.

"Bishop Daly and Bishop Hegarty and the priest were sued by the person making the allegation. After a protracted period of time, the priest paid stg£12,000 to her," the statement said.

It said the diocese made no contribution to the money paid over. The case was dismissed.

The woman has claimed the abuse continued for 10 years. She told her family about it on her 18th birthday in 1989.

Referring to the alleged abuse, she said: "He would find any excuse to take me in the car with him and I can tell you there is not a road in either Co Derry or Donegal that I wasn't abused on."

The priest wrote a letter apologising to the alleged victim's family for "any pain I caused you through inappropriate gesture or mistaken signs of affection".

Irish Independent

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