Saturday 17 November 2018

Comiskey set to officiate at funeral of Fr Fortune

MARESE McDONAGH

BISHOP Brendan Comiskey will deliver the homily at the funeral Mass this morning of Father Sean Fortune, the Wexford priest due to stand trial on sex abuse charges, who committed suicide at the weekend.

BISHOP Brendan Comiskey will deliver the homily at the funeral Mass this morning of Father Sean Fortune, the Wexford priest due to stand trial on sex abuse charges, who committed suicide at the weekend.

Last October Bishop Comiskey was issued with a High Court summons on behalf of one of Father Fortune's victims and that case is expected to come to court before the summer recess. In the court documents Father Fortune, Bishop Comiskey and the Papal Nuncio were named as defendants.

While this will be the first civil action relating to the allegations against the 45-years-old priest, whose body was discovered in his New Ross home on Saturday morning, other cases are pending.

A spokeswoman for Bishop Comiskey, who cut short a St Patrick's Day trip to the US to return for the funeral, reiterated yesterday that he would make no comment on the case. She said the Bishop was ``absolutely furious'' about media speculation about his whereabouts since Father Fortune's death.

``He is in Wexford and he is preparing his homily,'' the spokeswoman added. The first civil action, which is now expected to focus on how the Church authorities handled complaints against Father Fortune, is being taken Paul Molloy (28), of Fethard on Sea, Co Wexford.

OVERDOSE

Gardai in New Ross have confirmed that the preliminary post mortem examination results and the indications at the scene suggest that Father Fortune died from a drugs and alcohol overdose.

A sealed envelope discovered beside the body was passed by gardai to his family.

Father Fortune's death has reopened old wounds in Co Wexford, with the community divided between those who cannot understand why action was not taken to protect children and people who cannot believe that the larger than life personality was guilty.

The 29 charges of abusing young boys which Father Fortune faced related to his time in Fethard on Sea, where he was a curate from 1981 to 1987.

While complaints were made to the Church authorities in 1988, Father Fortune returned to Ballymurn, another Co Wexford parish after spending just a year in London where he did a communications course.

Following commencement of a criminal investigation in 1995, Father Fortune left Ireland and lived for a time in Belgium. He returned to seek a High Court judicial review, which was regarded by critics as an attempt to delay his trial.

Some of Father Fortune's former parishioners are angry that his is being blackened when he can no longer defend himself, causing huge distress for his family.

Most serious are the allegations of abusing young children, which date back to 1979 when Father Fortune was based in Belfast.

The curate who set up his own journalism course in the 1990s, had been interviewed by the RUC who were expected to seek his extradition eventually.

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