Thursday 21 September 2017

I thought God had taken my teen son because I had spoken out, says victim

Brendan Boland
Brendan Boland

Greg Harkin

ABUSE victim Brendan Boland has told how he thought the death of his teenage son in a road crash was 'divine retribution' for his decision to hold the Catholic Church to account for speaking out.

In an interview with the Irish Independent, Brendan (51) said the death of his 17-year-old son Stephen in 2003 left him devastated.

"I know it sounds crazy but that's what I thought at the time. I thought that God had taken Stephen because I had spoken out against the church," said the Dundalk man, who now lives in Harlow, Essex.

"I thought it was divine retribution and I know people think that's a stupid thing to say but I did believe that.

"Obviously over the years people would have told me to 'wise up' but it never goes away."

Brendan was just 12 when paedophile priest Brendan Smyth began abusing him.

In 1975 he plucked up the courage to tell a Louth priest, Fr Oliver McShane, who immediately told his parents and his church superiors.

On March 29 that year, Brendan was forced to leave his dad outside a room at a monastery while he met with the then Fr John B Brady and two other clerics and detailed horrific abuse meted out to him by Smyth. He also gave the names of five other young people he believed were being abused.

Cardinal Brady's failure to inform the parents of those children or the police has led to this week's crisis in the church.

"Fr McShane was a great priest. He has left the priesthood now and moved to England but he did the right thing," said Mr Boland, an electrical engineer.

Investigation

He repeated his calls for Cardinal Brady to resign but he said there must be a full independent investigation into how the church failed him and how Smyth knew within two weeks of that 1975 meeting that Brendan, then just 14, had made accusations against him.

"I'll never forget that day. I was working at a butcher's in Dundalk part-time and Smyth pulled up outside in his car and he waved his finger at me as if to say 'you'd better shut up'.

"I was absolutely terrified. I don't know to this day how Smyth found out it was me who had spoken up."

Brendan says he proposed to his childhood sweetheart Martina in 1979. He was 19 and she was 17. But before he could make his proposal, he sat her down to tell her about the abuse.

"Martina has been my rock from that day until this. She has stood by me through thick and thin and has been just incredible. I wouldn't be speaking up now if it wasn't for her," he said.

His surviving son Niall (24) also lives in Essex.

After that brief threat outside the butcher's shop in Co Louth, the next time Brendan Boland saw Smyth was in a UTV documentary in 1994.

"My sister taped the programme and posted it to me in England," he recalled. "I sat down and watched it and I was physically sick. I thought that he (Smyth) had been stopped."

Three years later Brendan found himself giving evidence against Smyth in the Republic.

But he believes the Irish church and the Vatican must be held accountable for its actions.

"I wanted a written apology from Sean Brady. He offered to meet and apologise in person but that for me wasn't good enough because it would have been me back being a wee boy again bowing to the church and I'll never do that again.

"I believe Brady should resign, but I believe the Vatican may be preventing that."

Irish Independent

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