'There was unease at the way he'd touch an arm, or stay close when talking'
Published 10/12/2011 | 05:00
Jim Murray, a former boss of the EU consumers' watchdog, says he was "close to panic" as a child at a private meeting with the late Archbishop John Charles McQuaid.
Mr Murray, who recently retired as director of BEUC, the European Consumers' Organisation, spoke last night about how the archbishop fingered the cross around his neck as he demanded answers from the boy in front of him.
The meeting with Mr Murray, who was 11 or 12 at the time, took place just over 50 years ago in the archbishop's private office in Notre Dame -- his house in Killiney, Co Dublin.
Speaking yesterday, Mr Murray gave an illuminating account of how the archbishop interacted with children.
Although Mr Murray says Archbishop McQuaid did not sexually abuse him, his account of being interviewed in his private office is revealing.
"His questions were mainly conventional ones about my progress in school," said Mr Murray. "Towards the end of the interview he asked me if there was anything else I wanted to tell him.
"I could not think of anything. He asked was I sure and repeated the same question a number of times, leaving very long pauses for my answer, fingering his pectoral cross all the time.
"The repetition of the question, and the long pauses in between, brought me close to panic as I desperately tried to think of something to tell him."
With the benefit of hindsight, Mr Murray concluded: "He was searching for evidence of impure thoughts. But if he was, he was premature because I was too young to have any."
His father worked as a gardener for nearly 20 years at Notre Dame.
"It is difficult to convey adequately nowadays the sense of deference and awe that surrounded the man and the power that radiated from him," said Mr Murray. "It was normal, even on chance encounters in the garden, to kneel and kiss his ring."
The one-to-one meeting with Archbishop McQuaid is still vivid in Mr Murray's memory.
"When I was perhaps 11 or 12 I was told His Grace wished to see me for a private talk and I waited with a mixture of excitement and nerves," said Mr Murray. "His study was on the first floor."
Looking back on the incident years later, Mr Murray said: "I formed the opinion that his interest in adolescent boys probably went beyond the strict limits of what was healthy or appropriate.
"Children have a certain sense about authority figures with which they have close contact. With some they are uncomfortable, with others there can be a feeling of unease.
"I had such unease in the presence of Dr McQuaid, and I am not alone in that, although I should say that my brothers and sisters had no similar reaction.
"It was something to do with the way in which he might hold a shoulder or touch an arm, stay close while talking, or the questions he would put.
"My opinion, and my experience, is not proof that Dr McQuaid was a paedophile."
However, Mr Murray said he would welcome a full inquiry if claims of abuse against the late archbishop were credible.
"There are obvious difficulties in the idea of investigating all previous cases of clerical child sex abuse," said Mr Murray, "but if there are direct and credible claims against such a powerful and pivotal figure I think they would merit full investigation."
It emerged this week that a supplementary report by the Murphy Commission contained two child abuse claims made against the late archbishop.