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Monday 27 March 2017

Paedophile priest Smyth 'found peace' in prison cell

Notorious paedophile priest Fr Brendan Smyth ia led from court, pictured in 1997
(NPA/Independent Collection)
Notorious paedophile priest Fr Brendan Smyth ia led from court, pictured in 1997 (NPA/Independent Collection)

Lesley-Anne McKeown

Notorious paedophile priest Fr Brendan Smyth found peace with God after he was jailed for abusing more than 40 children, an inquiry was told.

In a letter written in 1995, he said he hoped his victims could also find solace and lashed out at the media for adding to their distress.

"I have welcomed the prison sentences imposed by the courts as a fitting means of paying my debt to society," wrote Smyth, who died in jail in 1997.

"I would like to take this opportunity to express my deep sorrow to anyone who has in any way suffered as a result of my actions and also to those relatives, friends and members of my religious community who suffered because of the media treatment of these matters for a long time now.

"I have been at peace with my God and I trust they too will find a similar peace."

The letter was among a vast volume of documents produced to Northern Ireland's long running Historical Abuse Inquiry (HIA), which is examining whether systemic failings allowed Smyth - a member of the Norbertine order - to perpetrate the abuse over four decades, from the 1960s to the 1990s.

The inquiry was told about a number of victims, including a 14-year-old girl who was raped by Smyth at a Dublin hotel in 1973. He had befriended her recently widowed mother.

Although the girl's mother reported the incident to her parish priest, Fr Tom McKiernan, she was reluctant to go to the gardaí because she did not want to get Smyth into trouble.

In documents supplied for the hearing, Fr McKiernan said he was shocked and enraged by the crime and reported it to the Bishop of Kimore, the late Bishop Francis MacKiernan. He said: "My anger wouldn't allow me to rest. This man had criminally assaulted a young girl."

Confidence

But, he did not go to the police because he did not want to break the confidence of the mother. Another victim was an altar server in Co Cavan, when he was abused at the age of 11 or 12 in 1955.

When he spoke out in 1957, his mother did not believe him and said he had the "devil in him". Although the boy's father did believe him, he too warned against speaking about it - saying he would be carted off to Monaghan and declared insane.

Joseph Aiken, counsel for the inquiry, said: "That might explain the mindset at the time."

Irish Independent

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