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Victims' groups are demanding action over Cardinal's failure to act, and vows of silence

VICTIMS' GROUPS and politicians have called for a garda investigation into the actions of Cardinal Sean Brady for allegedly withholding information, a crime which currently comes with a maximum five-year sentence.

Victims' group One in Four and Labour TD Roisin Shortall have stated their belief that he Cardinal's action or inaction may amount to a criminal offence.

The gardai said that they would not comment on Cardinal Brady's actions because they said they were based on "unsubstantiated allegations."

"The Garda Commissioner does not propose to make any comment on what we consider to be an unsubstantiated allegation made in the context of a discussion on a radio talk show," a garda statement made to the Herald read.

This statement comes as revelations come to light indicating that detectives knew of Cardinal Brady's involvement in the Smyth case for years.

Maeve Lewis of One in Four has called on the gardai to include the Cardinal's handling of the Fr Brendan Smyth affair in an investigation to discover if he and other bishops are criminally liable for their actions.

Assistant Garda Commissioner John O'Mahony is currently investigating the fallout from the Murphy Report and whether bishops could be criminally liable for covering up abuse.

This investigation, however, only relates to abuse in the Dublin Diocese and Maeve Lewis from One in Four has called on the report to include cover ups from the rest of the country including Cardinal Brady's action in 1975.

Cardinal Brady notified his bishop but failed to notify gardai when he learned that Fr Brendan Smyth may have been abusing children, but has failed to accept responsibility for allowing Fr Smyth to carry on abusing children for two decades.

Maeve Lewis claimed that her organisation had been told that people identified as being involved in sheltering paedophile priests could be prosecuted under common law.

"At the time of the publication of the Murphy Report, we were advised by our legal people that it would be possible to prosecute bishops who covered up or withheld information on clerical sex abuse under common law rules," she said.

"I don't think that the gardai have vigorously pursued this and the Cardinal seems to be of the opinion that he hasn't done anything wrong.

"I think that any ordinary person who had known what he had would have acted differently -- as a citizen of this country he should have told the gardai.

"Assistant Commissioner John O'Mahony is currently investigating whether criminal proceedings are to be taken against Bishops named in the Murphy report and I think that this should be extended nationally to include cases like Cardinal Brady's."

Labour TD Roisin Shortall has also been advised that making two victims of child abuse take a vow of silence may also constitute a criminal offence.

"I believe that there should be a garda investigation to determine whether or not the failure to report Fr Smyth's crimes to the civil authorities was, itself, a criminal offence," she said.

"I am advised that the administering of an oath requiring these children not to disclose the abuse to anyone else may also have constituted an offence."

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern has said that an investigation into whether there would be criminal proceedings against facilitators of clerical child sex abuse would be done thoroughly and effectively.

"After the Garda Commissioner has received the report of the assistant commissioner's examination, he will consult with the Director of Public Prosecutions as to what issues arise in the context of criminal liability," Dermot Ahern said in the Dail last December.

"It would be a disservice to the victims of abuse not to acknowledge the difficulties surrounding any such examination but I am satisfied that everything possible will be done to pursue this matter robustly and comprehensively."