Priest's Mayo visits 'caused unease'

By Kathryn Holmquist
Irish Times
October 24, 1994

Ever since the revelations that a known paedophile and priest was allowed to minister to sick children at two Irish hospitals, there has been a lingering suspicion that he may have left a trail of pain which is yet to be fully uncovered.

When the Western People started asking questions about visits to Co Mayo by the "child sex priest" Brendan Smyth of the Norbertine Order, it discovered that "unease was expressed by some families in the area". It was "understood", however, that "no official complaints were lodged".

The newspaper learned that Smyth, who is serving a four year jail sentence in the North for sexually abusing eight children over a period of years, gave a retreat in Ballyhaunis in 1972 and afterwards occasionally visited the area coinciding with retreats at Knock, the most recent in July of last year.

The Anglo-Celt focused on the mounting public pressure on the Abbot of the Norbertine Order at Kilnacrott, Rev Kevin Smith, to retire because he gave Smyth references which enabled him to work as chaplain at hospitals in Tralee and Cork.

There was scant comment on the Smyth scandal amongst editorial writers although as the Roscommon Herald put it "Ireland has been rocked to its very core this week" by the revelations. "Parents everywhere have a right to be disgusted and angry at the church's actions," the newspaper believed.

"In this case a totally selfish attitude on the part of the church allowed an abuser to be in the company of powerless children. There can be no excuse or justification, indeed to try and justify it would only add to the hypocrisy ... Somebody obviously wanted the truth kept hidden and so innocent children were sacrificed."

On a different issue, the Limerick Leader remarked: "The Church of Silence didn't die with the liberation of Eastern Europe from communism. It lives on in Limerick. The watchword is 'no comment'."

The newspaper was commenting on "the official secrecy shrouding the departure of the Bishop of Limerick, Dr Jeremiah Newman, for rest and medical treatment in the US." Three months after Dr Newman's departure, his flock still does not know how he is, where he is or when, if ever, he will return.

Appealing for openness, the newspaper commented, "Unnecessary secrecy breeds rumour." Turning to another disappearance, that of Lord Lucan, the Connaught Telegraph reported a claim by the Fine Gael chief whip, Mr Enda Kenny, that the British government believes the missing peer to be alive almost 20 years after the murder of his children's nanny. Mr Kenny received confirmation from the British Prime Minister, Mr Major, that murder warrants are still outstanding for Lord Lucan's arrest.

That he has not been officially declared dead is causing headaches for householders in Westport, where the Lucan estate owns ground rents. The West Mayo TD had been seeking official confirmation of Lord Lucan's death to resolve the problem.

The Government meeting at Tinnakilly House in Co Wicklow did not go down well with the Kilkenny People and the Longford News.

The "expensive and unnecessary charade" during which TV viewers were treated to "the spectacle ... of a long parade of expensive limousines rolling up to transport one Minister after another to a supposedly discreet rendezvous contained all the elements of a badly orchestrated farce", stated the Kilkenny People.

Singling out the Labour deputies for criticism, the newspaper added, "There was a time when Labour deputies were elected by and represented the ordinary working class family who knew what it was to scrimp and to save ... Now they spend their time swanning about the world in private jets, stopping off from time to time at luxurious watering holes like the New York Waldorf Astoria."


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