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Magee urged to make public act of penance

A PRIEST today urged Bishop John Magee to make a public act of penance after his "inadequate" apology to the victims of clerical sex abuse.

Fr Michael Mernagh, an Augustinian priest who walked from Cobh to Dublin in December, 2008, as an act of atonement for the abuse in Cloyne, said Bishop Magee should "prostrate" himself for days if necessary outside St Colman's Cathedral in Cobh "wearing a purple robe of penance".


The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, had signalled his support for campaigners angry at Dr Magee's handling of sex abuse allegations when he welcomed and hugged Fr Mernagh at the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin at the end of his march in January, 2009.

Fr Mernagh said today that Dr Magee's apology yesterday was "not at all adequate" and said he had laid down conditions for meeting victims of sex abuse. "He will meet them on his terms in private," he said.

He said he stood in Cobh Cathedral three years ago and heard the Bishop read from a piece of paper "in a robotic manner" that he was sorry.

The priest said he was removed from the Cathedral precincts on Christmas morning but he had asked the Bishop to beg real forgiveness from the victims.

Dr Magee yesterday spoke publicly for the first since the Cloyne Report came out five weeks ago and said he accepted full responsibility for the failure of the diocese to manage allegations on child sexual abuse.

"I also want to say that I feel there is nothing I can say now which will ease the pain and distress for victims," he said. "I fully understand why they are angry -- I let them down, by not fully implementing the guidelines available to me.

"I deeply, deeply regret not ensuring that the guidelines, which were my responsibility to implement, were not complied with and I ask for forgiveness for the way in which I have carried out this critically important aspect of my work."


While the Catholic Bishops welcomed the Bishop's offer to meet survivors of child sexual abuse, some victims dismissed his expressions of shame and regret as "empty and insincere".

Abuse victim and campaigner Andrew Madden described the statement as "empty words" and said Dr Magee faced a number of unanswered questions.

The survivor's advocacy group, One in Four, welcomed the Bishop's offer to meet survivors but its director Maeve Lewis said he did not seem to have taken on board the Cloyne Report's finding that he misinformed the HSE.