'Every Day Is like It Happened Yesterday'

By Carl O'Brien
Irish Times
November 27, 2009

WHISTLEBLOWER: A FORMER seminarian, Ken Duggan had a deep sense of trust in the church. So when he reported that a priest was abusing an altar boy in the parish, he assumed something would be done about it immediately. It wasn't.

"The whole experience of how they handled it was sickening. In a church which you studied for, you expect nothing but the highest of standards. You go in naively, expecting your elders and the church to take action."

Duggan says he is encouraged by the Dublin diocesan report because it is a vital step in learning lessons from the past.

"Unless people or organisations are made accountable, even the most benign of people won't do what they should," he says.

In the early 1980s, Duggan was a guidance counsellor at St Declan's secondary school in Cabra. He became aware of a troubled young student who was an altar boy at the local church.

Over a number of meetings, the boy disclosed that he was being abused by the parish priest, Fr Ivan Payne.

The boy, Andrew Madden who became the first person in Ireland to go public about his abuse by a priest said the priest had been behaving "inappropriately". Overtime, he revealed the abuse had been continuing over the course of several years.

Duggan reported the priest to the archbishop's house, yet nothing happened for several months.

"I naively thought he'd be yanked out of the parish immediately and stuck in the basement of the archbishop's house licking stamps, at best," he says. When he raised it again, he was told the priest had admitted the abuse and would be moved in time.

Some time later Duggan met his uncle, a priest based in the Sutton area of north Dublin.

He was upbeat that they had a "great new priest" who was doing a magnificent job, taking the altar boys off on trips and weekends away. The priest, his uncle said, was Fr Ivan Payne.

"My jaw dropped," Duggan says. "When I told him, my poor uncle was distraught. He hadn't been told of the abuse. He went to the archdiocese and was told to mind his own business. It was being dealt with by the diocese.

"Six months later, he resigned as parish priest. He had sacrificed his life for the church and was told, in effect, to just get lost."

The details of the abuse and how it was mishandled by church authorities still haunts Duggan.

"It doesn't dim with time, it burns in your memory. Every day is like it happened yesterday. If my memory is show sharp now, I can imagine what it's like for the victims."

More needs to be done, he says. "We need mandatory reporting of abuse. We need to enshrine these duties in law. And if someone fails in meeting their duties, they should have to resign their post."


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