| 15.3°C Dublin

Behind image of the singing priest ... beast who raped little boys

TONY Walsh was once a popular priest, a Fr Trendy of his time.

Gyrating during Elvis Presley imitations with the All Priests Show, the 56-year-old was a big hit in parishes in the Ballyfermot-Cherry Orchard area of Dublin.

But away from the stage act, he was one of the most notorious clerical sex abusers, who raped and sodomised dozens of young boys in the 1970s-1990s.

In 1992, with allegations against Walsh on the increase, Archbishop Desmond Connell set up a tribunal to investigate him which eventually recommended that he be defrocked.

But Connell kept its findings secret.

Walsh later raped a 11-year-old boy in 1995 in the toilet of a pub in Ballyfermot after the funeral of the child's grandfather. It later emerged -- in 2002 - that a priest revealed that clergy at the Ballyfermot church told Walsh to stay away from the funeral.

Fr Eamon Clarke told how Walsh, freed after being jailed on December 2, 1997 for child sexual abuse, turned up at the church in full clerical garb.

The priest said the clergy knew "through the grapevine" that Walsh was suspended and suspected the nature of the allegations.

"After the removal we told him not to attend the funeral Mass next morning. He would not be allowed join in at concelebrated Mass."

The horrible thing was that Walsh abused the child the next morning, said Fr Clarke. "It is dreadful what happened after the funeral."

One of Walsh's victims, Ken Reilly, later appeared on the TV program, Cardinal Sin with his mother, Ena. He was raped aged 12 after serving as an altar boy at Walsh's ordination Mass in 1979.

His mother raised the alarm and was assured that Dermot J. Ryan, the Archbishop of Dublin at the time was "taking care of it." But Walsh remained in charge of the altar boys and of the children's Mass in Ballyfermot.

While serving a six year sentence in the Curragh, which ended in June 2002, other allegations emerged about Walsh.

Most of his offences against vulnerable children were committed in the presbytery while he was a curate in the Church of the Assumption, Ballyfermot. Others were in the homes of the boys, at a church residence in Westland Row and in Co Kerry.



Outcry

One nine-year-old boy was brutally raped in the Phoenix Park. Walsh used a purple clerical stole -- or vestment -- to clean the child.

The paedophile priest had been a curate in Ballyfermot from 1979-86, the former base of his fellow priest and performer Fr Michael Cleary.

But while Fr Cleary lived with his housekeeper in a man and wife relationship, Fr Walsh abused little boys.

He was initially jailed for 10 years in December 1997 for indecently assaulting six boys.

There was an outcry when his sentence was cut to six years in July 1998 by the Court of Criminal Appeal. He pleaded guilty to 12 charges of assault between 1980 and 1986.

The appeal court heard that Walsh, a native of Cappoquin, Co Waterford, was convinced he was not harming the boys aged from eight to 14 because he believed they would not understand what he was doing to them.

cmallon@herald.ie


Privacy