A GALWAY bishop today apologised unreservedly for his part in the movement of two priests who had abused children in the Clonfert diocese.
John Kirby said that there were no guidelines in place when he moved the two priests in the 1990s after they had abused children in the area. Today he admitted that this was “a grave mistake” and one that he profoundly regrets.
Bishop Kirby revealed that at the time he had never considered resigning over the incidents however, he admitted that if they were to happen now, he would resign immediately.
“There were no guidelines available at that time. Clearly if it was now, I would have no question I'd be gone in the morning,” said Bishop Kirby.
"I operate very differently now and will continue to do so in the future," he added. "Finally, I wish to reiterate my regret for the terrible damage caused by these two priests,” he added.
In the report Bishop Kirby pointed out that he believed there may have been other victims of both priests, however, no further allegations ever came to light.
“It's my view on presumption rather than anything else,” he revealed.
A report into the Safeguarding Practice in the Clonfert Diocese found significant shortcomings that had a knock on effect in safeguarding structures and practices in the diocese.
Bishop Kirby said at the time he had a lack of understanding about the sinister and recidivist nature of the child abuser and the lifelong damage that the destructive behaviour has on victims.
The bishop said today that the eight recommendations laid out by the report, including that he divest himself of the responsibility for dealing with allegations alone, had now been fully implemented.
The allegation against priest A was reported to the Western Health Board by Bishop Kirby three days after he became aware of it in 1990. However, he did not report it to the Gardai until a year later.
The 1993 allegation against priest B was not reported at the time. However, in 1995, Bishop Kirby reported the second allegation against priest B and at this stage revealed to gardai the earlier allegation.
In both cases Bishop Kirby moved the priests against whom allegations were made to different parishes. He said he believed by separating the priest and the young person he could remedy the situation.
Today he described his view at the time as “naive”.
“You can put it down as gross innocence and naivety. I literally thought if I separated the priest and the youngster, that it was a friendship that crossed boundary line and I literally thought if I separated them I'd have solved the problem.
“I was not aware that that youngster was part of a group and that there were people before him and that there were people after them,” he added.
The Bishop admitted that there was no further monitoring of the priests after they were moved but stressed that both were removed from ministry.
Bishop Kirby revealed he had since received a complaint two to three years ago about a priest who was deceased four decades at the time of the complaint. It is currently being investigated.