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Ex-archbishop denies he sexually exploited 'vulnerable' girl of 14


Richard Burke

Richard Burke

Richard Burke

A FORMER Catholic arch- bishop has denied that the reason a woman was "deeply troubled" in her relationships was because he had sexually exploited her when she was "a vulnerable child".

Tipperary-born Richard Burke (66) told the High Court he had not had any sexual encounter with Dolores Atwood until 1989 when she was 20 and he was 40.

He was under cross-examination on the fifth day of his action against RTE arising out of its Prime Time Mission to Prey programme broadcast on May 23, 2011. Mr Burke claims the programme wrongly depicted him as a paedophile.

He told the court that when they first had sex, Ms Atwood was sexually experienced and his interaction with her could not have warped her later relationships.

When she was in her 30s, she told him uninvited and in detail about her sexual experience, he said.

He agreed he had other sexual encounters while he was a cleric, including with a married Nigerian mother of eight. He also said he had "improperly touched" but had not had sex with a sister of Ms Atwood.


Mr Burke, a member of the Kiltegan Fathers who served as a priest and later as Bishop and Archbishop of Benin in Nigeria after being ordained in 1975, remains under continuing cross-examination in his action against RTE.

Ms Atwood alleges that Mr Burke first had sex with her when she was 14.

The jury heard recordings yesterday of phone conversations from November 2007 between Mr Burke and Chris Atwood, the husband of Ms Atwood.

In them, Mr Atwood asked him about his relationship with his wife. Mr Burke told Mr Atwood that he and Ms Atwood had an intimate relationship "going back 22 to 23" years.

When Mr Atwood asked Mr Burke about his wife's claim that she was 14 when they first had sex, Mr Burke said that was untrue.

When counsel said he was asking the jury to award him money, Mr Burke became angry and said that was "a lie".

He had not come to court for money, but "because RTE accused me of having a sexual relationship with the girl when she was 13 or 14" and "gave me no opportunity to answer".

The case continues before Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley and a jury.