Monday 5 December 2016

Former cleric has no recollection of agreement

Published 01/07/2015 | 02:30

Richard Burke at court yesterday
Richard Burke at court yesterday

The agreement was in his handwriting, confirmed Richard Burke. But the 66-year-old, a former Catholic Archbishop in Benin, Nigeria, denied that he had any recollection of it and denied that the document was in any way connected to a €100,000 payment to a woman who made allegations of abuse against him.

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The terms of the agreement were succinct. They were also introduced for the first time yesterday as part of RTÉ's defence to a claim by Mr Burke that he was defamed in an RTÉ programme.

The Kiltegan priest alleges RTÉ's May 2011 Prime Time Investigates: Mission to Prey programme wrongly depicted him as a paedophile.

RTÉ denies defamation and says the broadcast did not accuse him of being a paedophile. Rather, the national broadcaster says that the programme said he had slept with a 14-year old girl (Ms Attwood) and molested her when she was 13.

The manner and context in which payments (the exact number of payments are disputed) were received by Ms Attwood fell for review yesterday in the High Court. In particular, RTÉ focused on an agreement of which Mr Burke said he had no recollection.

Under the agreement, Richard Anthony Burke would give to Dolores Wasalathu Attwood "what she considers belongs to her", a sum of €100,000.

The second term dictated that for the remainder of her life on this earth, Ms Attwood - who will say that she regrets taking the money - would never again request or demand money from Richard. The third term in the agreement sought to impose a lifetime ban on any communication between the pair for any reason.

Another stipulated that certain information of a deeply personal matter shared "in trust" with Ms Attwood involving third parties would not be shared with anyone.

The agreement also said that all individuals mentioned "in the sharing" were never to be contacted by Ms Attwood or anyone else on her behalf.

The final term said the pair would "go their separate ways under the providence of God," obliging the duo to commit themselves totally to serve God for the rest of their lives.

Jurors heard that Ms Attwood will say that Richard Burke presented the document to her, but she refused to sign it.

She will say that the agreement was an effort to get her to withdraw a complaint against the senior cleric.

For his part, Richard Burke says he has no recollection of the document, but agreed it was his handwriting when it was shown to him.

"I do not remember it, that is the truth," he told RTÉ's Senior Counsel Paul O'Higgins during cross examination, adding that he did not accept the agreement was part of the context for a €100,000 payment made to Ms Attwood.

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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