Wednesday 29 March 2017

Gardai step up probe into abuse collusion

Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

GARDAI have stepped up an investigation into whether members of the force or the clergy broke the law in protecting child sexual abusers.

A dedicated team of detectives working under an assistant garda commissioner, John O'Mahony, is preparing to interview up to half-a-dozen members of the force whose actions were criticised in Judge Yvonne Murphy's report on child abuse in the Dublin archdiocese. It is understood that some individuals have already been interviewed but it is not clear whether these are priests or former members of the force.

The report is not only focusing on gardai but also on the actions of priests and clergy to see if there is evidence that they failed to act in relation to a criminal act.

Those who are expected to be interviewed include the retired Cardinal Desmond Connell and the retired chief superintendents Maurice O'Connor and Joe McGovern. There have already been calls from victims groups that Cardinal Connell be prosecuted.

Mr O'Connor was criticised in the report for having "inappropriate dealings" with Bishop James Kavanagh, at a time when the paedophile Fr Bill Carney, was investigated for indecent assault. The report found that Bishop Kavanagh tried to influence the investigation but was unsuccessful. Fr Carney was convicted because "lower-ranking gardai had done their job properly". The report said Chief Superintendent O'Connor could not take credit for that

Mr McGovern is criticised in the case of another priest, Fr X, who is not named in the report. The report found that two gardai failed to take notes when interviewing the priest about child sexual abuse allegations. When the priest later made limited admissions to the then-Chief Superintendent McGovern, the garda told his priest rather than investigating gardai. Other gardai who investigated Fr X were also criticised but not named by Judge Murphy, who concluded that the "connivance" of gardai in stifling one complaint and failing to investigate another was shocking.

"It is noteworthy that the Commission would not have been aware of the garda activity in question were it not for the information contained in the Church files," the report noted.

Other gardai who were criticised have since died.

The report is expected to take several months to complete and then it will be given to Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy.

He will decide whether the report should be forwarded to the DPP.

Justice minister Dermot Ahern said that under current legislation, anyone who knowingly failed to protect children from paedophiles is guilty of an offence.

Sunday Independent

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