Priest says sorry to chaplain in slander row
AN extraordinary row between two priests over the use of money from a chaplain's fund has ended with the reading out of an unequivocal apology from one of them in court.
The two priests, who are held in very high regard at James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown, west Dublin, have been caught up in a row since July over money used by one of them for a training course from a fund used to help clerics.
Ciaran Dalton, a former chaplain at the hospital and now lay counsellor, of Arran Court, Waterville, Blanchardstown, had claimed in the Circuit Civil Court that head chaplain Fr Martin Geraghty had slandered him.
Mr Dalton had alleged that Fr Geraghty had told a lay chaplain that money was missing from a Mass collection fund which helped priests and that he, Dalton, had taken it.
Fr Geraghty, who lives in Phibsboro, Dublin, had denied he made such a statement.
Mr Dalton had applied for €10,204 from the chaplaincy fund for a course of study-in-service training in Trinity College.
This had been on the basis that he would apply to the Health Service Executive for course funding and would repay the fund with the money received from the HSE.
Fr Geraghty said that when no money had been forthcoming from the HSE his understanding had been that it should in any event be repaid and, on this not having been done, he had believed it his duty to inquire into the matter. "In so doing I wish to assure you that I acted at all times in good faith having regard to my obligations as head chaplain in the hospital," Fr Geraghty said in his apology.
"I particularly wish to assure you that in no way did I intend to impugn your honesty or good name and I accept now that I was mistaken in my understanding that the money should be repaid regardless," it read.
Fr Geraghty said he regretted that Mr Dalton had felt it necessary to issue court proceedings against him.
The case had been almost fully heard over three days in July when Judge Joseph Mathews dramatically had to pull out of it when Mr Dalton's barrister John Ferry questioned a number of "developments".
He said a senior member of the inner bar, 85-year-old Patrick Long, had shaken hands and spoken with the defendant, Fr Geraghty, in court and had lunched with a witness in the case after having met the judge briefly in his chambers.
Judge Mathews said he had no alternative but to withdraw.
When the case came up for retrial before Judge Jacqueline Linnane yesterday, Siobhan Phelan, counsel for Fr Geraghty, told the court it had settled and could be struck out on her reading of an apology on her client's behalf.
The earlier hearing had been told that Fr Geraghty had sought the advice of Bishop Ray Field, an auxiliary bishop in the Dublin Archdiocese, who had told him he should have the money paid back. On behalf of Mr Dalton it had been stated the money had been paid to Trinity College and vouched for.