Clerical Child Abuse in Ballyfermot

By Shauneen Armstrong
The Echo
November 24, 2002

A BALLYFERMOT community worker who set up a support group for people abused by paedophile priest Tony Walsh says victims feel 'vindicated' after new revelations this week about the clerical child molester.
Tony Walsh was a curate in Ballyfermot

Angela Copley, manager of the Ballyfermot Resource Centre, said nothing in this week's Prime Time documentary, entitled 'Cardinal Secrets', surprised her. Ms Copley facilitates a support group for those who have been abused by Father Tony Walsh.

She said: 'This is good for the lads, it is going to bring some closure. People are listening to them now and believing them."

Tony Walsh pleaded guilty in 1997 to 12 charges of indecently assaulting six boys aged from eight to 14 when he was curate at Our Lady of the Assumption Church between 1980 and 1986. While curate in Ballyfermot, Walsh was in charge of 60 altar boys as well as the children's Mass each week.

He was defrocked by a three-man church tribunal in 1992, which found him guilty of abuse, but, according to Prime Time, this information was not passed to either the Gardai or the health board. However this was disputed in a statement issued by the Archdiocese of Dublin, which claimed the Gardai where contacted in March 1992 about Walsh.

The statement said; "Mosignor Alex Stenson wrote to the Gardai indicating the address at which Tony Walsh was residing. The letter also stated 'in view of
Fr Walsh's behaviour in the past, you might give this information whatever attention you may think it deserves.'"

A spokesman for the Diocese said there were a number of contacts made to the Gardai since 1991. He said: 'There were quite a number of contacts with the Gardai back as far as 1991.We have records of contact between Gardai and ourselves." The spokesman added other victims were contacted about the trial when the Diocese became aware of the Garda investigation into Walsh.

Walsh decided to appeal the tribunal decision and attended a funeral in Palmerstown in 1995 as a 'priest' where he abused the 11 -year-old grandson of the deceased in a toilet.

Tony Walsh was told to stay away from the funeral the day before he sexually assaulted the boy it has emerged.

Speaking on RTE's Liveline programme Fr Eamon Clarke, a priest of St Philomena's parish at the time of the 1995 assault, said two priests instructed the defrocked Walsh to stay away from the funeral the next day when he attended the removal in clerical dress.

Fr Clarke said: "He attended in full clerical garb with a Roman collar. We thought he was a friend of the family.

"We could not make a public scene because we knew he was under suspicion and investigation. but he was entitled to due process.

"After the removal we told him he was not to attend the funeral and he could not concelebrate the Mass."

The most shocking thing, said Fr Clarke. was that Walsh then attended the funeral and went with the family to a reception afterwards where he assaulted the boy in the toilet of a pub.

Ms Copley was first approached in 1996 by one victim of Tony Walsh. She said: "He (the victim) used to come into the centre and he told me what happened. I brought him to the Garda station and then went to court with him.

"When Walsh was sentenced, I met the other lads. They wanted to start a support group and I made the Ballyfermot Resource Centre available to them.

"I was not surprised by the programme at all. Nothing has changed. I was not surprised either about Reynolds or Billy Camey."

The programme revealed that Father Noel Reynolds, who died earlier this year, admitted abusing 100 children and how Father Bill Carney was defrocked in 1989 after being found guilty of child abuse. Camey worked in Ballyfermol during the 1970s. He was found guilty of indecent assault in 1983 receiving the probation act. However, he was then re-assigned to Clogher Road in Crumlin before being removed from his ministry in 1989 and defrocked.

Ms Copley sees her role with the group as that of protector. She said: "They have been exposed to so much. It is very hard for them and it never goes away but they are getting on with their lives. The programme has opened it up again and they need protection."

She asked who was accountable following the Prime Time revelations.

In a statement released after the programme. Cardinal Desmond Connell said: "We have been slow to understand the depth of their trauma and the nature of their needs. I deeply regret the mistakes I have made in seeking to come to grips with the problem."

Victims of the abuse have been meeting with the Minister for Health. Micheal Martin, as part of the Government preparations to deal with the issue.


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