JODY CORCORAN, Political Editor A GARDA investigation into allegations of illegal homosexual acts and paedophilia at two Dublin diocesan colleges more than 20 years ago cleared the late Archbishop John Charles McQuaid of any involvement, the Sunday Independent has learned.
The now retired Garda detective inspector who led the investigation said three students were dismissed from the colleges, and while Dr McQuaid was also investigated, no evidence of any wrongdoing on his part was discovered.
In the course of the investigation, the gardaí questioned a gay student priest about an incident in Lourdes which involved Dr McQuaid, but found no evidence of wrongdoing.
The incident formed a small part of a more extensive Garda investigation into what were then illegal homosexual acts between two student priests at All Hallows College in Drumcondra, Dublin, and a third student at the nearby Clonliffe College.
That investigation had its origins in an anonymous letter to the then head of All Hallows which contained unproven allegations of child sexual abuse against the two All Hallows students.
A retired detective inspector who led the investigation has confirmed that he and a detective garda, who is now a superintendent stationed in Co Wicklow, separately questioned one of the former All Hallows students about the incident in Lourdes.
The Wicklow-based superintendent could not be contacted last week.
However, his then superior, Joe Devane, who is now 83, told the Sunday Independent that the student was questioned about a single incident involving Dr McQuaid because of ``rumours'' which had been circulating at the time about the Archbishop.
Said Mr Devane: ``This young fella told my colleague that once, when he was in Lourdes, he began to feel unwell. Apparently there was no doctor around and, he said, the Archbishop rubbed him on the stomach for a while before sending him off to bed.
``I went back to him later and asked him if anything else happened. I was thinking to myself, no matter what way you look at it, the Archbishop rubbing a young man of 20 or 21 on the stomach was a bit strange. But he was adamant it was only a medical thing. `That's all it was,' he said. I remember he told me his private parts were never touched.''
The allegation that Dr McQuaid, the most powerful figure in the Irish Catholic Church this century, was homosexual and a possible paedophile, is contained in a new book by journalist John Cooney.
The principal allegation in the book relies on a hitherto unpublished manuscript by the late Dr Noel Browne, a former minister and Dr McQuaid's bitter enemy. This claim of possible paedophilia is based on information given to Dr Browne by a retired, unnamed school inspector from the Department of Education.
In the book, the Archbishop is alleged to have molested the son of a Dublin publican in a private upstairs room of an unidentified bar on an unspecified date, but probably in the late 1950s. The boy served Dr McQuaid with a glass of whiskey and was invited to sit beside him on a settee.
In a letter to the Sunday Independent, the former secretary to the Archbishop said he did not believe the allegations against Dr McQuaid in the book.
Fr John Fitzpatrick, now a parish priest in Whitehall, Dublin, said he had checked his recollections with other colleagues who had worked for Dr McQuaid.
He said: ``I never knew the Archbishop to have visited a pub, much less frequented one. I never knew him to drink whiskey. As a matter of fact, the only drink I ever saw the Archbishop take was a fraction of a glass of wine poured for him at dinner, or a thimbleful of brandy when he was ill ...
``Is it not gravely wrong to state that anybody is a paedophile without having verifiable evidence to back up such a character-destroying assertion? Surely it is inexcuseable to do this when the person is dead and left unproteced by any laws of libel?''
Mr Cooney sought to interview Mr Devane for his book, but the former detective inspector declined the offer. Last week, however, he told the Sunday Independent his investigations began when allegations of child abuse against the two All Hallows students were made in an anonymous letter to the then head of the college.
At it turned out, that letter, according to Mr Devane, was written and sent to the college head by one of the two students against whom the allegations were made. The former Garda described this student as ``a bit unstable''.
Said Mr Devane: ``I remember the letter stated that this abuse was allegedly happening at a children's disco in an old school near the airport. We went to the parents and asked them about it, but they said `Not at all, sure they're two grand lads.'
``The thing ended at that until about a year later when one of the students the fella who wrote the letter turned up in Bray, claiming he had been kidnappened in the city centre, driven to Bray and thrown into the sea.
``For the next day I drove around Dublin with him, up to the airport and everywhere, trying to identify the car. But we found nothing. Later I was searching through his wet clothes again and I found two bus tickets. We discovered one was a 4p ticket into the city and the other was a 12p ticket out to Bray. So we knew he hadn't been kidnapped and driven to Bray at all, but got the bus.
``When I tackled him on it he caved in. He told us everything, about him buggering the other chap in All Hallows, and another lad in Clonliffe College. He told us everything. He told us he jumped into the sea in Bray himself. As I said, he was a bit mad.''
Mr Devane and his colleague proceeded to interview the other two students and they also confessed to what were then illegal homosexual acts which, they said, occured in a Drumcondra hotel room and at other venues.
Recalled Mr Devane: ``They were mortified about the whole thing. Their parents and everything became involved. Later they were thrown out of the college. I think they were a year or two off being ordained.''
It was during these interviews that one of the All Hallows students not the one who had jumped into the sea in Bray told of the incident involving Dr McQuaid in Lourdes.
Mr Devane prepared a file which was forwarded to his chief superintendent at Whitehall and to the Attorney-General. Charges were never brought. Mr Devane is adamant that no pressure was applied by the Church authorities to drop the charges. ``I recommended that no charges be brought. I thought they had been through enough,'' he said. ``They were thrown out of the college, their parents were involved and, anyway, they would have probably got the Probation Act. There was no point in putting them through all that the publicity and everything.''