RUC intended to seek extradition of priest over Belfast abuse cases

By Jim Cusack
Irish Times
March 15, 1999

The RUC has a file concerning the reported abuse of three children in Belfast by the Wexford paedophile priest Father Sean Fortune, and is understood to have established links between him and other paedophile clergy.

Father Fortune was sent north in the late 1970s to work in the Nazareth Lodge orphanage in south Belfast. The RUC received complaints from former inmates and children who attended a local youth club. Detectives interviewed most of the children who were in the youth club while the priest was in Belfast. Three made specific and serious abuse complaints against him dating from 1979.

Had Father Fortune served a jail term or been acquitted in the Republic, the RUC intended to seek his extradition on his release.

Father Fortune was questioned by the RUC and his awareness of its intentions is believed to have contributed to his efforts to delay his trial in the Republic for almost three years.

The priest had been under investigation since early 1995. At that time, The Irish Times had been making inquiries about him after having learned about abuse allegations stemming from his time in the parish of Poulfur, Co Wexford.

Father Fortune abused several boys from the area but despite complaints by victims and their families no action was taken by the diocese. One victim's family says they received a letter from Bishop Brendan Comiskey but the bishop has denied that a letter of apology was sent.

However, Father Fortune was removed from Poulfur and sent to a London parish in 1987 and subsequently another parish, in Ballymurn, Wexford. He was serving there when the Garda investigation began.

Statements about Father Fortune's crimes show that he used methods of selecting and abuse that are strikingly similar to details which emerged in cases of other paedophile clergy on both sides of the Border, some of whom Father Fortune knew.

None of the clergy concerned has ever admitted to sharing information or victims but police on both sides of the Border have strong suspicions that such a ring did exist.

Father Fortune was a close associate of another Wexford priest, Donal Collins, who was imprisoned for serious sexual offences against minors. Collins used to visit Father Fortune's parochial house and deliver "lectures" to local youths.

The RUC is understood to have uncovered links between Father Fortune and Daniel Curran, who was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment in Belfast in June 1995 for gross indecency and attempted buggery.

In Wexford allegations were made against as many as 10 priests who had links with the diocese. These men were either the subject of sex offence charges or the subject of allegations concerning abuse in the 1970s and 1980s. At least three are dead.

Father Fortune was known to have been friendly with some of these men. One close associate, and also a visitor to Father Fortune's parish on Hook Head, received a six-month suspended sentence in 1990 for indecently assaulting a 13-year-old boy.

Father Fortune was a close associate of a priest in the Norbertine Order, a religious group which also had as a member Brendan Smyth, the notorious offender who was jailed in the North and died in prison in the Curragh. The revelation that the State had failed to extradite Smyth to face charges in the North led partly to the downfall of the Fianna Fail-Labour Coalition Government five years ago.

Father Fortune is known, from statements made by his victims and local knowledge, to have held parties at the parish house in Poulfur with other clergy and young men.

A youth who contacted The Irish Times after the initial report, in February 1995, that a Garda investigation was taking place into the allegations against Father Forde, said he had been brought to Poulfur parish by a priest from Maynooth and abused during a weekend stay in the parochial house. The youth wished to remain anonymous. He was advised to speak to detectives in Wexford.

Father Fortune was suspected of stealing money from his parishes. While under investigation by the Garda in 1995 he tried unsuccessfully to take £28,000 from an account in Wexford to Belgium.








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