Death of this rampant paedophile priest robs his victims of closure
Bill Carney was linked to a suspected paedophile ring but his death leaves unanswered questions, writes Maeve Sheehan
The odious former priest Bill Carney died in the Midlands Prison last Saturday week, apparently without a word of remorse or apology to his many victims.
He was awaiting trial on 34 charges of sexually abusing eight boys and two girls over 20 years up to 1989, having pleaded neither guilty nor not guilty, his day of reckoning delayed because of his bad health.
According to his anonymous friend of 35 years who contacted Joe Duffy's radio show last week, Carney was suffering. He had been beaten up by other prisoners and looked unwell, with swollen legs from a kidney complaint.
These were the last days of a serial paedophile who spent decades of his life as a priest stalking children's homes for prey, selecting the vulnerable ones and bullying and manipulating his way into their lives. He was foul mouthed and obnoxious towards those who got in his way. On the many occasions when they complained to his Catholic superiors, he bleated self-serving denials which were accepted in order to avoid scandal.
His death from a heart condition in his prison cell last Saturday week robbed his many victims of the chance to see him judged before his peers for a lifetime of crimes against children.
As with the other notorious paedophile, Fr Brendan Smyth, who was buried in a clandestine service in the middle of the night by his religious order, Carney's funeral arrangements have been kept secret, no doubt for reasons of privacy.
There was no death notice and it is not known who claimed Carney's remains from the Irish Prison Service.
The mystery has denied one victim the chance to at least seek closure by witnessing his coffin being burnt or lowered into the ground. Jane, whom Carney plucked as a child from her children's home under the noses of the nuns and abused until adulthood, spent days last week phoning coroners, the prison service and cemeteries. She was unable to find any details of a service for him.
"I wouldn't have said anything, just sat at the back. I just wanted closure," she told the Sunday Independent last week.
The Murphy report on clerical sex abuse in the Dublin archdiocese in 2009 counted up 32 complaints to the diocese about the "loutish" and "crude" Carney, but it believed he had abused many more. Among Judge Yvonne Murphy's most chilling findings was the "worrying connections" between five priests, although she found "no direct evidence" of a paedophile ring.
If there was such a ring, Carney was at the heart of it. As a seminarian in the early 1970s, he toured the children's homes of the capital in the company of Fr Francis McCarthy, another paedophile priest and later, he took children on excursions to the swimming pool with Fr Patrick Maguire.
The Murphy report stated that one boy who was initially sexually abused by Fr Francis McCarthy was later abused by Bill Carney. Fr Patrick Maguire was also a convicted child abuser.
Joey Dempsey, who was raised in the Grange children's home in Dun Laoghaire from the age of four, recalled the visits from Carney and his paedophile side-kick, Francis McCarthy. Speaking to the Sunday Independent last week, he said he was fortunate not to be abused by either priest, nor did he witness any abuse. He does remember how the nuns - for whom he has nothing but praise - intensely disliked Carney, but only years later understood why.
McCarthy was "quiet", but Carney was "the children's favourite", he said. "He drove flash cars, used colourful language, joked and laughed and in a sense was not what we perceived as being a normal, stern priest. Bill Carney also arranged various trips away for the children, and the one thing that always stuck in my mind was him always swimming naked on various trips. Trips included Kerry and Wexford and appeared to be completely organised by him."
Years later, when he was stuck for accommodation as a young adult, Carney, a curate in Kimmage, offered Joey a room. Alone and without family, he was grateful for the bed. However, he found Carney "very domineering, obnoxious and rude". He would often "slam the door" on parishioners seeking help, he said.
Fr Francis McCarthy was a regular visitor and there were often children staying over. Carney was an avid golfer, spent most of his free time playing golf at the Royal Dublin and often took boys with him as caddies.
Joey said his "first suspicions were raised" by the "constant presence" of one particular boy. "Bill Carney brought me to various parish houses where he had befriended numerous families, all of whom had fathers who had left or were separated from the family," he said. "The one thing I recall with chilling thoughts was Carney's insistence I had to be out of the house at very specific times during the day," he said. On one occasion he broke the rule, he stumbled on Carney naked, but for a robe, in the company of a half-dressed woman. Joey moved out shortly afterwards.
Although he never witnessed any abuse, he says he is now "sickened" it could have been occurring under his nose.
The Archdiocese of Dublin was aware of Carney's behaviour and its response was worse than inept. The one occasion Carney was prosecuted for indecent assault, in 1983, was due to the persistence of a young Garda, Finbarr Garland. The Murphy report said "it appeared" that Bishop James Kavanagh "tried to prevent" the prosecution and, when it went ahead, "tried to ensure that it was kept as quiet as possible".
Nine years and many complaints later, Carney was finally booted out of the Church with a €30,000 pay off. He drove a taxi in Dublin and then moved to Gloucestershire, where a publican friend organised a job for him.
Carney married an unsuspecting widow, moved to Scotland to run a bed and breakfast and played golf at St Andrews. His apparently genteel life was destroyed by publication of the Murphy report. Carney fled. When the BBC tracked him down to the Canaries, he denied its findings and blamed his alcoholism.
Carney's victims will now never see him called to account for his crimes. But the Catholic Church still has an opportunity to atone for protecting him for so many years. A number of people who claim they were abused by Carney are suing for damages. Diarmuid Martin, the Archbishop of Dublin, is listed as his co-defendant as nominee for the diocese. With Carney dead, it's up to the Archbishop to decide on the decent thing to do.