Monday 5 December 2016

Former archbishop had sex with 'quite a lot of people', court told

Tim Healy

Published 30/06/2015 | 02:30

Former archbishop Richard Burke
Former archbishop Richard Burke

A former Catholic Archbishop had sexual experiences with "quite a lot" of people, the High Court has heard.

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Tipperary-born Richard Burke (66) admitted to having relationships with women but is suing RTÉ arising out of its 'Prime Time' 'Mission to Prey' programme broadcast on May 23, 2011. Mr Burke claims the programme wrongly depicted him as a paedophile.

Yesterday, he denied the reason a woman was "deeply troubled" in her relationships was because he had sexually exploited her when she was "a vulnerable child".

He told the High Court he had not had any sexual encounter with Dolores Atwood until 1989 when she was aged 20 and he 40.

Under cross-examination on the fifth day of his action he said that when they first had sex, Ms Atwood was very sexually experienced and his interaction with her could not have warped her later relationships.

He agreed he had other sexual encounters while he was a cleric, including with a married Nigerian mother of eight. He also said he had "embraced" and "improperly touched", but had not had sex with, a sister of Ms Atwood.

Mr Burke, a member of the Kiltegan Fathers who served as a priest, was Bishop and Archbishop of Benin in Nigeria. RTÉ denies he was defamed.

The jury has been told Dolores Atwood alleges Mr Burke first had sex with her when she was aged 14.

The jury heard recordings of phone conversations of November 2007 between Mr Burke and Chris Atwood, husband of Dolores Atwood, where Mr Atwood asked the cleric about the relationship between himself and Ms Atwood.

In reply to Paul O'Higgins SC, for RTÉ, before the recordings were played, Mr Burke said he had been wrong about some of the dates he mentioned during the phone calls.

During the calls, Mr Burke told Mr Atwood he and Ms Atwood had an intimate relationship "going back 22-23" years.

While from his own point of view, there had been no relationship for years, "from Dolores's point of view, it has never stopped in her heart", Mr Burke said.

Earlier, in reply to Mr O'Higgins, Mr Burke said he had had an "encounter" with a married Nigerian mother of eight.

He said what he did was "inappropriate, stupid and wrong".

Asked was Ms Atwood his only amorous relationship, he said he had "experiences with other people" and Ms Atwood "reacted badly" to that.

When put to him he had had experiences with "quite a lot" of other people, he said "some other people".

Counsel said the number of people was "in the teens", adding he was referring to the number, and not age.

The case continues before Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley and a jury.

Irish Independent

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