Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore added to the pressure on the country’s most senior cleric Cardinal Sean Brady today over his role in a secret child abuse inquiry.
The cardinal has faced a mounting chorus of calls by senior politicians in the Republic and the North to resign amid disgust over the 1975 investigation and inaction against abusive priest Brendan Smyth.
The beleaguered cardinal vowed to remain as Primate of All-Ireland yesterday despite renewed attacks on him over accounts he has given of his role in interviewing two of Smyth’s young victims.
The church has also faced demands to explain why in 2010 it said Cardinal Brady, who at the time of the investigation was a teaching priest and trained canon lawyer, had conducted the inquiry but more recently has described his role as a note taker.
Mr Gilmore today said that clerics who did not act at the time should resign.
“It is my personal view that anybody who did not deal with the scale of the abuse that we have seen in this case should not hold a position of authority,” Mr Gilmore said.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the cardinal should consider his position, given the enormity and scale of the abuse perpetrated by Smyth.
“I think his authority has been very seriously undermined with what has happened,” Mr Martin said.
Labour’s Education Minister Ruairi Quinn called for the resignation of the cardinal because of his position as the most senior cleric of a church which is patron of 92% of the 3,200 primary schools in Ireland.
The North’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he had urged the cardinal to consider his position in 2010 when questions about the inquiry first arose and has repeated calls for him to reflect on his position as ordinary Catholics look for change in the church.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday called on the cardinal to reflect on his position.
In the 1975 internal church inquiry Brendan Boland, a then 14-year-old, told investigators that at least five children had been attacked by Smyth.
The cardinal claimed his role was as notary and to submit a report and he blamed superiors in the church for failing to stop the evil priest abusing over the next 20 years.
But the cardinal also accepted he privately interviewed one of the victims identified by Mr Boland about the abuse and did not notify the child’s parents.
Cardinal Brady, who is due to retire in 2014, also swore two victims to secrecy and the church has since claimed this was for their protection and to prevent Smyth, who died in prison in 1997, from manipulating evidence.
The Tánaiste, also Foreign Affairs Minister, oversaw the decision to close down the Irish embassy in the Vatican last year.
That move was made as part of huge cost-cutting measures, the Government said.
Mr Gilmore stated today he believed in the separation of church and state.
Some children were abused by Smyth for years after the internal church inquiry.
It was not until 1994 that Smyth was convicted in a Belfast court of 17 counts of sexual abuse. Three years later in Dublin, he pleaded guilty to another 74 counts of child sexual abuse. He died in prison in 1997.
The Cardinal's spokesman responded to the deepening political criticism by repeating that the failure in 1975 was by Church superiors.
He also addressed fresh questions on the Cardinal’s role in the internal inquiry and rejected claims that there was any discrepancy or contradiction over the Church’s description of him as notary and the 2010 explanation which said he had been asked to conduct the investigation.
“The facts remain the same. He was not the person in charge of the inquiry,” he said.
A statement from the Church in March 2010 said Cardinal Brady had been drafted in to conduct the investigation because he held a doctorate in canon law.