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Under-fire bishop claims he did 'no wrong'

DUBLIN auxiliary bishop Eamonn Walsh has hit back angrily at criticisms of him, saying if he did anything wrong by not protecting children from paedophile priests he would have stepped aside by now.

Bishop Walsh said at the Irish Bishops' conference in May-nooth yesterday that if he had done anything wrong, he would have resigned.

He made the remarks at the first meeting of the national Episcopal conference since the publication last month of the Murphy report.

Bishop Walsh reacted to calls for his resignation ahead of tomorrow's crunch meeting in Rome between Pope Benedict XVI and senior Irish clergy.

Cardinal Sean Brady and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin are meeting the Pope to discuss the fallout from the report.

"I am the kind of person that if I have something to say I say it very directly," said Bishop Walsh who was appointed an auxiliary in the Dublin archdiocese in 1990.

"If I had done anything wrong I would be gone. My record on child protection goes back a long way and it will continue," he added. But Bishop Walsh, a canon lawyer and barrister-at-law who earlier served as secretary to the late Archbishop Kevin McNamara, acknowledged that there was a danger of bishops who were criticised in the Murphy report being contaminated by association with the secretive cover-up culture prevailing in the Church from 1975 to 2004.

"If the perception is continued among the people that I was somebody complicit in all this then that would be a barrier to my ministry and I could not minister as a priest or a bishop if that was to continue," added the bishop.

Bishop Walsh said he was determined to do everything in his power to assure people of his earnestness in the past and the present, adding that if he did not have his personal integrity, he had nothing.

Resignation

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Bishops named in the Murphy report also include the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, Jim Moriarty; the Bishop of Galway, Martin Drennan; Dublin auxiliary bishop, Ray Field; and Bishop Donal Murray, who is in Rome to submit his resignation.

"While I may be contaminated in people's mind by association, I consider a lot of the things that have been written about me are at least disingenuous and have been an ingenious way of twisting facts."

Bishop Walsh, who was appointed administrator in the diocese of Ferns after the resignation of Bishop Brendan Comiskey in 2002, vigorously defended himself from criticism of his co-operation with the state inquiry made by former victim Colm O'Gorman.

"They are not satisfied with what is in the Ferns Report where I gave co-operation beyond what any court could compel," said Bishop Walsh, referring to the late discovery of files relating to five priests.

"Judge Murphy called this an unfortunate but genuine error, but this is still not accepted by some commentators," Bishop Walsh continued.

Repentance

Bishop Drennan, who was promoted from the auxiliary rank in Dublin to the senior post of Galway, said he was not disturbed by being associated with criticisms in the report and could easily answer any questions put to him by Archbishop Martin.

Cardinal Brady, who chaired yesterday's meeting, said that the core issues being discussed were repentance, reparation to victims and making the Church a safe place for children.

Archbishop Martin said that only one person had not replied to his letter inviting those with responsibility in the Dublin diocese to come forward and tell of their position.

The court of public opinion was an important part of this exercise in accountability, added the archbishop, who said he did not yet know the timetable and procedures for tomorrow's meeting with the Pope and senior officials.


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