Tuesday 23 July 2019

Ferns report details Garda complicity in sex abuse whitewash

JIM CUSACK DETAILS of how a senior garda destroyed interview notes from children sexually abused in the Ferns diocese are included in the judicial report being presented to Government prior to its publication this week.

Chief Superintendent Jim Doyle was awarded by the Vatican after he squashed a file that should have led to the prosecution of a priest for the abuse of children while they were preparing for their confirmations at Monageer parish in April 1988. Doyle, who died two years ago, received the bene merenti only given to people who have carried out significant services to the Church, after the file disappeared.

The Monageer episode is at the centre of the inquiry into sexual abuse in the Ferns diocese, though the priest is only one of 24 abusers identified in the report.

Chief Superintendent Doyle intervened personally in the case of Fr Jim Grennan, a senior Parish Priest in the diocese who made girls from his confirmation class sexually fondle him at the altar of his church.

The Ferns report by former Supreme Court judge Frank Murphy details the ineptitude with which the Ferns diocese handled complaints about abusers, the most infamous of whom was Fr Sean Fortune who committed suicide rather than face charges of raping and abusing boys over more than a decade.

At the centre of the mishandling of abuse complaints is the case of Fr Grennan, who died in 1994, who abused several children in his parish of Monageer over a period of years, yet was never arrested or removed from office.

After Grennan blatantly abused young girls and boys a local family complained to the garda and the Eastern Health Board, both of whom produced evidence that there had been sexual abuse. However, the garda files were taken over by the then Chief Superintendent and disappeared. It is suspected that they were shredded.

Following further complaints by the families in the mid-Nineties an internal garda investigation was ordered by the then Minister for Justice, Mrs Nora Owen.

Grennan was first investigated in 1988 after he abused each of 10 girls, aged 10 and 11, who were in the parish church receiving instruction for their confirmations. Grennan brought the girls individually up to the altar, telling the others to keep their heads down in prayer while he carried out the abuse at the altar.

Grennan was made aware of the complaints and attacked the Health Board and denied the accusations to Bishop Comiskey.

The investigation was carried out by two local gardai, Sgt Jim Reynolds and Garda Donal Breen who took statements from the girls and their families. Two weeks into their investigation they were told that their notes and the statements were to be sent by squad car to the Garda Station in Wexford. There the documents disappeared and no further investigations were directed.

Grennan was sent on a holiday to Spain for three weeks and when he returned he demanded as allowed to take part in the confirmation ceremony at the church in Monageer - to the horror of parents, some of whom walked out of the ceremony. He continued to carry out sexual abuse on at least one boy in the parish until the time of his death in 1994. Worse still for the families, supporters of the priest began a campaign of vilification and some of the victims' families received abusive calls and letters and were shunned by part of the community.

When the 12-year-old sister of one of the abuse victims was killed in a farm accident the family received hate mail saying it served the family right for attacking the Church. A legal case against the Church by one of the abused girls was settled before the High Court only last year.

Serving priests in Ferns have become deeply demoralised by the Church's handling of the affair and last week one priest spoke anonymously to a local newspaper claiming that the clergy had been abandoned by the hierarchy.

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