Book reveals murderer was abuse victim

By Gordon Deegan
Irish Times
June 25, 2004

One of the victims of a paedophile priest unmasked by the Bishop of Killaloe, Dr Willie Walsh, last weekend, was triple murderer Brendan O'Donnell, a new book is to reveal.

Last weekend, Dr Walsh stunned four separate congregations in the east Clare joint parish of Mountshannon-Whitegate when he revealed that their former parish priest, Father Tom McNamara, had abused a number of children in the area.

A decade ago, the east Clare area was convulsed with grief as the community tried to come to terms with local man Brendan O'Donnell murdering Ms Imelda Riney, her three-year old son Liam and Father Joe Walsh.

O'Donnell was convicted of their murders in 1996 and died one year later, at the Central Mental Hospital, following an overdose. He was 23.

O'Donnell was one of Father McNamara's parishioners and the late priest served the area between 1973 and 1993. Father McNamara died in 1997 and his grave is located in the grounds of Mountshannon Church.

At the Masses Bishop Walsh indicated that his predecessor, the late Bishop Michael Harty, was aware of allegations made against Father McNamara.

It is understood that Bishop Harty did not refer the matter to gardaí. Instead, he had Father McNamara assessed by a psychiatrist and allowed him remain in the community after the psychiatric evaluation concluded that Father McNamara would not reoffend.

Now, a new book to be published by Gill and McMillan in September is to claim that O'Donnell was one of Father McNamara's victims.

Entitled A Tragedy Waiting to Happen, and focusing on the life of Brendan O'Donnell, the book is written by a local man, Mr Tony Muggivan, who took O'Donnell into foster care in 1989.

Mr Muggivan yesterday declined to comment on the contents of the book, stating that he is bound by the terms of a contractual agreement with his publishers prior to publication.

However, it is understood that the book will claim that Father McNamara abused O'Donnell.

On the bishop's public apology last Sunday, Mr Muggivan said, "It is high time that the bishop came out and apologised to the people of this area for the way this priest treated the people here, and their children. This is our Church as well."

He also said he cannot understand why the late Bishop Harty did not bring this matter to the attention of gardaí.

Bishop Walsh - who took up his office two years after Father McNamara retired - was yesterday sent a series of questions to clarify a number of matters arising from his public apology.

The bishop was asked why he was now making the statement of apology and asked to clarify facts surrounding the late Father McNamara being referred to a psychiatrist by the late Bishop Harty.

The bishop was also asked about allegations being made by victims for the period Father McNamara was allowed to remain in the community after the psychiatric assessment.

Bishop Walsh was asked how many victims have made complaints and has compensation been paid out by the Church. He was asked if there was anything in the Church's investigation to confirm that Brendan O'Donnell was a victim of the priest.

However, Bishop Walsh declined to issue a response to any of the questions at this time. His spokesman said that the bishop now wanted to give space for those who wished to come forward and tell their story.

The spokesman said that the bishop wanted to concentrate on his pastoral work around the issue and may comment in the future on the questions asked.

Last Sunday, Dr Walsh told the congregation that he has met a small number of people who have suffered abuse at the hands of Father McNamara.























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