Ex-hospital chaplain claims he was defamed by priest
A MAN on leave from the priesthood is suing a hospital's head chaplain, whom he claims accused him of misappropriating funds, for defamation of character.
Ciaran Dalton, a former chaplain at James Connolly Memorial Hospital, Blanchardstown, Dublin, claimed in the Circuit Civil Court yesterday that Fr Martin Geraghty, head chaplain at the hospital, slandered him.
Mr Dalton alleged Fr Geraghty told a lay chaplain, Caroline Mullen, that money was missing from a fund built up from Mass collections and that Mr Dalton had taken it.
Fr Geraghty, who lives in Phibsborough, Dublin, has denied he made the statement and told the court he had never bad-mouthed Mr Dalton.
Mr Dalton, who lives in Blanchardstown, Dublin, told the court he had legitimately obtained money from the fund to pay for a two-year counselling course at Trinity College, Dublin.
Fr Geraghty said the fund was lodged in Bank of Ireland in his name.
It was used for defraying expenses of chaplains who attended day courses, conferences, retreats, and for buying gifts for patients, and was funded by collections taken up at Masses in the hospital.
Mr Dalton obtained leave of absence from the priesthood in 2007, after which point Fr Geraghty said he noticed a sum of several thousand euro had been paid out of the fund.
Fr Geraghty told Judge Mathews he became nervous about the withdrawal and had gone to an auxiliary bishop in the Dublin Archdiocese Ray Field.
He was advised to "regularise" the fund and have the money paid back.
Bishop Field had advised him to deal with two accountants associated with the Dublin Archdiocese and they carried out an investigation. It was discovered the money was paid to Trinity College and vouched for.
Fr Geraghty told the court the fund had been started about 20 years ago when chaplains were paid very poorly. But chaplains were now appointed and paid by the Health Service Executive.
Fr Geraghty said there was more than €6,000 in the fund up to two weeks ago, when the new manager at the Blanchardstown Hospital directed that it be discontinued and broken up among various charities.
The HSE had not been aware of its existence until the matter of the alleged defamation had occurred.
Judge Mathews is expected to deliver his judgment on the €38,000 defamation claim today.