Thursday 23 November 2017

'Humiliated' 1980s dean warns of 'deja vu' at Maynooth

St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Photo: Steve Humphreys
St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

The former senior dean at Maynooth College - who was "demoted and humiliated" after expressing concerns about activities at the college in the 1980s - has said the current saga reads "like deja vu".

And Fr Gerard McGinnity warned "any would-be whistleblowers" to "be prepared for a difficult passage" unless they have someone there to protect them.

He said he can see "the features of what occurred 30 years ago repeated" in a lot of the recent narrative about the national seminary and said that it raises doubts that anything has changed there in the intervening years.

In 1984, as Senior Dean, Fr McGinnity took up senior seminarians' concerns over the behaviour of then college vice-president Monsignor Micheál Ledwith in relation to junior seminarians - "including concerns of a sexual nature".

His whistleblowing revelations were subsequently verified by the Ferns Report.

Fr McGinnity was swiftly forced into resigning his position after raising his concerns with bishops - while Ledwith subsequently became president at Maynooth but was eventually removed following allegations of abuse in Maynooth.

Fr McGinnity's career within the church never recovered and he recently retired as parish priest in Knockbridge, Co Louth.

In recent years, he became embroiled in the House of Prayer controversy and he continues to serve as spiritual director to self-proclaimed 'visionary' Christine Gallagher.

Speaking on RTÉ radio, Fr McGinnity spoke of the background to his meeting with "about six" senior students in Maynooth - some of whom were very mature and had come to Maynooth a little later in life.

"They had a good perspective and outlook on life," he said, adding that he sees some are still "working very well in their diocese" to this day.

He said he took their concerns seriously.

"I listened and they were afraid then - as we read today - that they might be disciplined or not taken seriously and that's why they came to me," he said.

He said he relayed their concerns to the trustees at Maynooth but was "shafted" and deprived of his position.

"I would say to any would-be whistleblowers, be prepared for a difficult passage. Unless there's someone there to protect you and that you feel you can have recourse to them, you may well lose everything," he warned.

He described what happened to him subsequently as "appalling", with efforts made in clerical circles to discredit and undermine his credibility.

Fr McGinnity said he agreed "thoroughly" with what Archbishop Martin was saying about Maynooth and said that if there was a safe forum in which seminarians could have trust, then reform could be achieved, but it demanded sincerity on everyone's part, "transparency and respect for tolerance".

Meanwhile, he said he was contemplating writing his memoirs about his own experience.

Irish Independent

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