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'I have no recollection' - priest denies indecently assaulting altar boy at parochial house

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A priest has denied indecently assaulting an altar boy at his parochial house, 30 years ago.

The accused has pleaded not guilty to a total of eight counts of indecent assault, on dates between September 1988 and June 1990.

The accused, who is in his 60s, is alleged to have put the boy on his lap and placed his hands inside his pants.

On the opening of the trial last Tuesday the prosecution alleged the assaults took place while the boy was carrying out jobs at the priests’s home, such as washing his car, cutting his lawn, and painting.

On Thursday the accused gave direct evidence that had “no recollection” of the boy coming to his home to carry out this work.

The accused, who stepped aside from ministry following the allegations, agreed with Lily Buckley BL, for the prosecution, that he organised and went on outings with altar boys at the time of the alleged assaults on the injured party.

The accused also agreed he was in a position of “great trust” in his parish.

The injured party’s mother told gardaí she remembered her son going to the priest’s house to cut his grass around the time of the alleged offences.

When asked by Ms Buckley if the boy’s mother was “a liar”, the priest replied: “I’m not saying that. I’m saying I have no recollection.”

“I’ve taken an oath here to tell the truth and I’m telling the truth,” he continued.

The accused denied he had been sexually attracted to the boy and that he aroused himself with the boy on his lap.

“That did not happen, that did not happen,” he said.

The accused told the court he was “shocked” when gardaí put the allegations to him.

Ms Buckley, continuing her cross examination of the accused, further alleged: “Of course you were gobsmacked. You couldn’t believe it had finally come to your door. You must have thought you were in the clear.”

The accused responded: “No. In my heart and soul I knew I did nothing wrong.”

The accused said he took an “overdose” following the claims, because he was worried about the effect on his family; that it would be the subject of media reportage; and that the church authorities would be informing his local parish that he would be standing aside from ministry because of the nature of the allegations.

“I wasn't sleeping. I wasn't eating,” the accused said.

The prosecution said when the accused responded to the allegations during interviews with gardai he had told them that “on reflection”, he had not done what the boy had alleged.

Addressing the accused, Ms Buckley said: “You had to reflect on this?...If you had not done (anything wrong), you would have known this immediately.”

The accused replied: “That’s the way I express myself.”

“When I left the garda station, (the garda) said to me to examine my conscience. I did that, and, hand on my heart, I have no recollection of what (the injured party) said I did,” he added.

The jury of six men and six women are due to retire to consider its verdict on Friday.

Online Editors