Former Archbishop Denies He Paid Atwood to Withdraw Complaints

RTE News
June 30, 2015

Richard Burke is continuing his cross-examination in his action for defamation against RTE

A former Catholic Archbishop has denied that payments made to a woman with whom he had a sexual relationship were made in an effort to get her to withdraw complaints about him.

Richard Burke, 66, from Tipperary is continuing his cross-examination in his action for defamation against RTE in which he claims he was wrongly branded as a paedophile in the programme.

Mr Burke also denied that he made one of the payments after a trip to Rome during which it was allegedly suggested by his superiors that restitution be made to the woman who made abuse allegations against him.

Counsel for RTE Paul O' Higgins said Dolores Atwood will say she had never asked for 26,000 given to her in October 2007 and that 50,000 given to her on another date was part of a process of Richard Burke attempting to get her to withdraw her complaint against him.

Mr Burke said that was "not the tenor of the conversation. I was protesting my innocence and I am not guilty of the allegation and to withdraw the case and withdraw the allegation."

Mr Burke accepted that he had helped to script a note for Dolores Atwood to withdraw her complaint. He was shown a copy of the note which he agreed was in his handwriting.

The court was told she reinstated her complaint in December 2008 and Mr Burke went to Rome in January 2009.

Mr Burke said he had no recollection of later drawing up a contract or agreement between him and Ms Atwood connected to the payment of 100,000. However he was shown a copy of the document and agreed it was in his handwriting.

The agreement stipulated that the payment would be made and the pair would never contact each other again. It also required Ms Atwood never to reveal information of a deeply personal nature revealed to her "in trust" by Mr Burke involving third parties.

Mr O'Higgins said Dolores Atwood had refused to sign it because the sticking point was his refusal to leave Africa. Mr Burke denied this. Mr O'Higgins said it had been mentioned that he had gone to Rome and his superiors had suggested that restitution be made to Dolores Atwood. Mr Burke replied: "No, I do not accept that."

Mr O'Higgins said Dolores Atwood will say she regrets taking the money.

Broadcaster did not contact me directly over documentary - Richard Burke

Mr Burke told the court he did not know he was to feature in an RTE documentary until it was broadcast, despite numerous emails between the broadcaster and the Kiltegan fathers.

Mr Burke said he was not directly contacted by RTE and was not given an opportunity to answer the allegations against him in the programme.

He said his first knowledge of the programme was when he received an email from his order 12 days before the broadcast.

However, counsel for RTE said the station had been in contact with the Kiltegan fathers for two months before that and several emails had been sent.

Mr Burke said he had no knowledge of the ongoing communication.

Mr O'Higgins said RTE had made several attempts to find him and when they could not they sent a list of written questions to the Kiltegan order to which it replied.

Mr Burke accepted he had received a copy of the questions from the order and the answers given by the Kiltegan fathers in advance of the programme.

Mr O'Higgins said it was very clear from the programme that RTE was very keen to do interviews with them.

Mr Burke said he saw no evidence of that and no contact directly with him. He said he saw no evidence that RTE had sought third party corroboration of the allegations but had relied totally and completely on the evidence of Dolores Atwood.

It was put to him that he had said in an email to the Kiltegan fathers that he had suggested they go down the legal route.

Mr O'Higgins suggested that this was his opportunity to respond. Mr Burke said they had not asked him.

He also said in an email that he believed the order had a responsibility and an obligation to respond on his behalf and saying he wanted to know when it was being aired so he could warn his family.

Mr O'Higgins also pointed to an email from David Walsh, the second in command of St Patrick's Missionary Society, to him in which he was told that "we were asked to go on camera but did not accept". Mr Burke denied the word "we" included him.

He said he was quite clear the "we" certainly did not include him. It referred to the central leadership team of which David Walsh was a member.

He also accepted that he had received a copy of the questions and answers between RTE and the Kiltegan fathers.

Mr O'Higgins said if he had been interested in being in the programme he could have sought to be.

Mr Burke said it was not clear that he was going to be featured in the programme and was happy with the answers the Kiltegan fathers had given to the written questions.

Mr O'Higgins said his complaint that he was never given an opportunity to appear on the programme was meaningless because he didn't want to be on it.

Mr Burke said the fact was he was never actually invited to take part in the programme.

Mr O'Higgins said it was clear that his complaint about not being given an opportunity to respond was simply incorrect.

Mr Burke told the High Court he began recording phone calls from a woman and her husband in Canada because she accused him of being a paedophile.

Mr Burke told the court he recorded any calls from Canada after November 2007, when Dolores Atwood first mentioned the word paedophile.

He said the allegation was traumatic and left him devastated and defenceless and he was trying to take whatever measures he could.

He said Ms Atwood had never mentioned the word paedophile to him until she made an angry phone call to him in November 2007.

Counsel for RTE said Ms Atwood would not have accused him of paedophilia in earlier years because she was in love with him and hoped she would end up with him.

Mr Burke said he never intended to leave the priesthood and did not recall ever telling Ms Atwood that they could end up together.

Mr O'Higgins said the RTE programme 'A Mission to Prey' did not accuse him of being a paedophile, rather it said he had slept with a 14-year-old girl and had sexually molested her when she was 13.

Mr O'Higgins put it to Mr Burke that he spoke with care when he recorded the calls with Ms Atwood's husband Chris because he knew it was on the record.

Mr Burke said he did not speak with care but spoke from the heart and tried to defend himself against things that were said to him with which he did not agree.

Mr O'Higgins said during the call Mr Burke said his relationship began with Ms Atwood going back 22 or 23 years.

He said this would mean the relationship began in 1985 when she would have turned 16.

Mr Burke has said in evidence it was 1989 when they first had any sexual contact and that she was 20 years old.

Mr Burke said he was under enormous strain at the time and had not set out to deceive anyone, but said he could see now the dates and years were very unclear.

He said he could only say now that he was speaking the truth and had made a mistake when speaking to Mr Atwood on that occasion in 2007.

He also told Mr Atwood that she was 20 when they first had sex.

He said he did not plan what he was going to say or plan his responses.

Mr O'Higgins said he had given him a version of the truth slanted in his favour, but not as slanted as his later statement given in relation to this case.

Mr O'Higgins said Mr Burke's statement of claim for this case in which he said Dolores Atwood was 21 when they had sex but he could be out by a year or two was a self-interested document in many important aspects.

Mr O'Higgins said it was perfectly clear that what he was trying to do was justify himself "as much as you can in the circumstances".

He said he was in a state of turmoil and confusion and had not set out to deceive.

The court also heard Ms Atwood had made an anonymous call to St Patrick's Missionary society in 2005 complaining about him having relationships with other women.








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