Murphy Report Chapter 19: Main Points & Timeline

RTE News
December 17, 2010

Main points from Murphy Report Chapter 19

Initial claims

Two days after Tony Walsh's first appointment to Ballyfermot parish in July 1978, the parents of an eight-year-old boy complained that he had abused their son, but the Archdiocese made no response to the boy's parents.

Walsh denied the abuse and nothing further was done. The priest to whom the complaint was made noted 'the parents are most responsible people and there is no danger of publicity.'

Second complaint

The second complaint was made by the mother of a 14-year-boy that her son had been abused in Ballyfermot in 1978 and 1979. The parish priest said he would contact the Archbishop's house but the only action taken was that Fr Michael Cleary, based in Ballyfermot at the time, went to the boy's home in 1980 'to educate him on male sexuality.'

The boy's mother said Fr Cleary did apologise but there are no records of any communication with the Archdiocese and in 1985 a canon told a monsignor that matters were 'hushed up.' The priest did not report it to gardai.

A former youth co-ordinator who later became a priest complained to the Archdiocese between 1980-82 about Walsh's activities with young girls at a Summer Camp. No action was taken.

Warning to Archbishop

The parish priest of Ballyfermot in 1984 was given 'a veiled warning' about Walsh by Archbishop Ryan. The report says either the Archbishop was not entirely convinced by an earlier allegation or was concerned about subsequent allegations.

March 1985 - Seven priests were aware of concerns about Walsh's behaviour.

The PP of Ballyfermot Fr Donal O Doherty told Monsignor Stenson, chancellor of the diocese and top administrator, about a series of events which caused him alarm.

He said he also told Bishop Donal Murray and they agreed 'if it occurred again, he should act'. It is not clear what 'it' means.

Initial treatment

April 1985 Monsignor Stenson met Tony Walsh who 'denied nothing' and admitted to further abuse of a boy in Wicklow that the diocese knew nothing about. Walsh agreed to go to a psychiatrist and was 'grateful that he had been given a second chance'.

June 1985 Walsh attended a psychiatrist who said he was amenable to treatment - three alternatives - electric shock, medication and 'reorientation method to channel the drive appropriately.'

October 1985. Another complaint - the psychiatrist was informed - Walsh denied the claims and no further action was taken. Walsh moved from Ballyfermot to Westland Row.

In his letter appointing him, the Archbishop says 'I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your dedicated work in Ballyfermot.' The report describes this as 'astonishing'.

Housekeeper evidence

Numerous more complaints emerged after he left Ballyfermot. His housekeeper told gardai there were always young children in the house and once she met two young boys coming out of Walsh's bedroom.

Walsh took up his position in Westland row in 1986. The diocese was now aware of four specific complaints and a number of concerns.

In 1997 Monsignor Stenson said 'I recall a sense of urgency in moving him to a safer place' and 'we had no idea about the enormity of his problems'. The report states 'It is difficult to conclude that the move was for any purpose other than to avoid further scandal in Ballyfermot.'

He was removed from a parish where the PP was aware of his actions and endeavouring to restrain him to a parish where the PP knew nothing about him.

A priest who knew of the problems the 1979 victim and his family were having, criticised the Archbishop for unsatisfactory responses to the mother's letters.

Walsh was asked by Monsignor Stenson to 'reconsider his involvement in entertainment and public appearances in the area where the family lived.'

He said he'd think about it but he continued with his singing career.

Westland Row

1987. The housekeeper found some of her clothes in Walsh's room. Her underwear had been 'used'. She burned the clothes. She also found syringes and condoms and mentioned that boys stayed overnight there.

Monsignor Stenson said he had 'no doubt about her truthfulness' but Walsh denied the claims and said he didn't know what condoms were like.

1988. More allegations in Westland Row - when it was put to Walsh by Monsignor Stenson he abused a girl on his knee, he said he was drunk and couldn't remember. However, the Monsignor says when he asked him about another allegation 'for the first time he really opened up.'

The Monsignor met the parents of the most recent victim. They were extremely kind and concerned and said they 'would not like Walsh to suffer because of one misdemeanour.' The Monsignor did not tell them there was a history of this behaviour.

Church account

Walsh wrote out an account of 'his difficulties', not a full account, minimises his abuse. In May 1988 - 10 years after the first complaint it was decided to send him to Stroud (Centre run by Catholic Religious Order in UK) for treatment and he was removed from his position in Westland Row

June 1988. Monsignor Stenson noted the report from Stroud which said Walsh 'is a very disturbed man, is always going to be dangerous, there have been an awful lot of children, he could not be let near schools, children, confession etc'

November 1988. Final Stroud Report stated: 'under no circumstances should he have any apostolate involving children.' Walsh signed a contract with the Archdiocese agreeing not to make any physical contact with a child beyond a handshake in public and not to visit Ballyfermot under any circumstances.

He was appointed chaplain in a hospital for older people and people with long term illness and nominated Fr Michael Cleary as his spiritual director.

February 1989. Walsh in counselling. Stroud review - Archbishop told 'so far so good.' However, it was clear that Walsh was chaffing against the restraints and wanted back to Ballyfermot.

May 1989. Stroud - said he was bored - Walsh started to resume his old behaviour.

Complaints from parents

Aug 1989. Parents complained to Monsignor Stenson. Walsh went to the family home to apologise to the parents even though the Monsignor told him to stay away.

Sept 1989. Archbishop gave him permission to solemnise a wedding. Archdiocese knew Walsh was visiting scouts in a parish he was not assigned to.

April 1990 Archbishop Connell and Monsignor Stenson met Walsh and told him his only option was voluntary laicisation or dismissal. He was given until 1 May to make a decision.

Suggestion of informing gardai 'outrageous'

Monsignor Sheehy intervenes with Archbishop for Walsh - warned Archbishop Connell of 'canonical minefield.' Monsignor Sheehy described a meeting in August as 'the most depressing meeting I have ever attended' and that Bishop Walsh made the 'outrageous suggestion that the Archbishop should inform the civil authorities.'

September 1990. Deadline extended - Walsh given leave of absence for a year. The report says it is quite clear the Archbishop wanted to prepare him for life as a layman.

Jan 1991. Walsh living in Dublin in Halston Street

March 1991 -Scout leader and parent contacted Archbishop to say Walsh was back in Dublin. He had been seen with a boy in his car. Bishops meeting decided to institute a penal process against him, discussed informing gardai, but did not.

May 1991. Walsh sent to Mellifont Abbey

June 1991 Monsignor Stenson told by a victim (1980/81) that Walsh was continuing to go to Ballyfermot.

August 1991 - Walsh refuses UK treatment

Claims of 'persecution'

In July 1992, Tony Walsh did not turn up at the Archdiocesan Library for a period of two weeks, the report says he was 'not getting on well' there.

A priest from Westland Row contacted Monsignor Stenson informing him Walsh was spending some time in the parish.

The Monsignor advised the priest to contact the Garda Superintendent on College Green and request he keep an eye on Walsh.

Tony Walsh complained to the Archbishop about 'persecution' by Monsignor Stenson.

A report from concerned parents in December 1992 that Walsh had called into local scouts meetings stating he was 'attached to Clonliffe' was passed on by Monsignor Stenson to Bishops.

In May 2003, Monsignor Stenson was informed by another priest about concerns expressed by a Ballyfermot parishioner about inappropriate behaviour with a young girl and behaviour with altar boys.

The report states that the local priest with whom the concerns were raised 'clearly knew' of the 'reputation', which Walsh had and advised the parishioner to avoid all contact with him.

Penal process verdict

In August 1993, the Penal Process delivered its verdict. It said he should be 'dismissed from the clerical state', because he had offended against the ten commandments with a 'minor or minors' under the age of 16.

Walsh's psychologist said that there was a 'better way of controlling him' and suggested the Church could find a way of using him 'rather than to dump him'.

Two months later in October 1993, Walsh appealed to Rome against the decision to dismiss him from the priesthood. He told Rome he had not offended since 1988 and he said he considered his punishment too harsh.

In June 1994, Rome allowed his appeal against the penalty imposed and said he should remain as a cleric provided he enter a monastery for a period of ten years.

1994 - Further complaint

In May 1994, a young boy complained to gardai in Ballyfermot that he had been sexually assaulted by Walsh in the toilet of a pub following the funeral of the boy's grandfather.

There was also an allegation a similar incident had happened a year earlier.

Walsh attended the local Garda Station, but according to the report 'declined to answer any questions.'

In late 1994, newspaper reports about the incident in the pub involving the boy were published, but Walsh was not identified.

In December of that year, the mother of boys who had been abused by Walsh rang Monsignor Stenson to say her son was suicidal and Walsh had been babysitting in recent weeks.

Church restrictions

Monsignor Stenson met with Tony Walsh and told him he was not to wear clerical dress on any occasion. He was banned from being alone with a child. He was not to mislead people that he was attached to Clonliffe College, the Archbishops House or the Marriage Tribunal.

Walsh was told by the Monsignor that if he did not comply with the Archbishop's directions, 'his financial situation would be reviewed'.

1995 - Opposition to civil action

In early 1995, Walsh admitted to gardai he had indecently assaulted two boys in the 1980s.

A number of other complaints were made to the gardai and the Archdiocese.

The report says that in spite of mounting evidence and media coverage Monsignor Sheehy advised the then Archbishop Connell against excessive reaction, 'no matter what civil law may say.'

In June 1995, priests from Ballyfermot and other parishes were invited to a meeting with Archbishop Connell to discuss problems that might be encountered following recent publicity surrounding Tony Walsh.

Finding a monastery

Archbishop Connell wrote to the judicial body in Rome informing them he was unable to find a monastery for Walsh and was appealing its decision. The Archdiocese said no monastery would take Walsh.

He told Rome he could not send him abroad because he had been charged with a criminal offence.

The Archbishop told Rome that he had to act definitively with regard to Walsh because, he said, 'in the present climate in this country, the alternative could well be a serious scandal for the church.'

The report claims that by the summer of 1995 the Archdiocese was reporting all complaints to the gardai and complainants were being offered counselling.

Dismissed by the Pope

Archbishop Connell wrote to Rome and begged the pope to dismiss Walsh. He sent a letter to a senior member of the Curia in Rome to officially petition Pope John Paul II to dismiss him.

Archbishop Connell wrote, 'the Archbishop humbly begs the Holy Father graciously to grant him this favour in the interests of the well-being of the Church.'

The plea was successful and in January 1996 a decree issued by the now Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Ratzinger, confirmed the Pope had dismissed Walsh as a priest.

The report states that the decision to petition the Pope was a novel one which had created a precedent.

Walsh tried to appeal against the Pope's decision, he wanted the Pope to intervene and allow him remain a priest because he was living in the Cistercian Monastery in Mount Melleray.

From July 1996, the Archdiocese no longer regarded Walsh as being entitled to pay and it awarded him ?10,500 severance pay.


A young man abused in 1979 contacted the Archdiocese in November 1997 complaining about the inadequate response of Bishop Kavanagh to his complaint in 1979. He said that if a robust response had been taken at the appropriate time, further abuses could have been avoided.

Further complaints

The report says that further complaints emerged in the 1990s and 2000s. All people involved were offered counselling, but one complainant told the Commission that 'the Church have failed me and still fail me today.'

Release from prison

In March 2002, before his release from prison, Walsh wrote to the Abbot of Mount Melleray seeking accommodation after his release but was declined.

He also wrote to Cardinal Connell stating he had nowhere to live and no money and said that he had been looking forward to his release, but did not expect it would be accompanied by the ordeal of having nowhere to go.

The Archbishop had written to the prison advising them that Walsh must organise his own accommodation and work on his release.


The Commission says that Walsh never accepted that he was dismissed from the priesthood.

The report states he continued to seek ways of appeal against the Pope's decision. It also states that he has appeared in Clerical Dress on some occasions. It adds that despite being threatened with ex-communication if he continued to represent himself as a priest, it did not deter him.

Commission's Assessment

The Commission concludes that the welfare of children did not arise as a consideration for the Archdiocese, despite an established clear danger to children.

It says that by 1985, the Archdiocese knew he was a serial abuser and his transfer to Westland Row was clearly an attempt to avoid further scandal in Ballyfermot.

The report concludes that action should have been taken by the Archdiocese in 1979 'at the latest'. But it recognises that Archbishop Connell did act decisively once he became Archbishop.


The Commission says it is 'unacceptable' that two gardai who had concerns about Walsh in 1990 and 1992 failed to pursue a thorough criminal investigation.

The report concludes that a criminal investigation 'of sorts' was effectively shelved because of the penal process in the Church.


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