Clerical abuse survivor glad of inquiry into garda inaction

Clerical sex abuse survivor and papal representative Marie Collins said she was glad there would be an inquiry over the failure by the gardaí to act on information it had in 1973, about paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.

“There can be no excuse for the gardaí not acting on the information they had then. There can be no justification for doing nothing,” Ms Collins said yesterday.

Evidence was provided to the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry in Northern Ireland this week that gardaí in Finglas, Dublin, had been alerted in 1973 about a very real risk of future abuse by Smyth. Belfast solicitor Kevin Winters said he would be writing to the Garda Commissioner Nóirin O’Sullivan to find out why the letter informing gardaí that Smyth was “suffering from paedophilia” was not acted on.

Mr Winters’ firm represents a number of Smyth’s victims, who are seeking damages against the gardaí for failing to prevent crimes against the innocent and vulnerable.

Confidential documents from St Patrick’s Hospital in Dublin disclosed during the inquiry showed that Smyth was receiving psychiatric treatment in 1973 for his sexual propensities.

The Department of Justice and Equality said it would examine any conclusions or findings made by the historical abuse inquiry that were relevant to this jurisdiction.

Ms Collins, a member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, was abused by a priest in 1960 when she was a patient at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, Dublin.

“It would seem that, back in those days, because there was religious involved, there was a reluctance on the part of the guards to act. That should not have happened,” she said.

The priest, Paul McGennis, had committed sexual assaults on patients aged eight to 11 years at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick children in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In 1960, Scotland Yard told the Garda Commissioner that McGennis had photos of children developed in a London photo lab.

The commissioner asked Archbishop John Charles McQuaid to take over the case as a priest was involved and the gardaí “could prove nothing”. The Commission to Inquiry Into Child Abuse said there was no evidence that the gardaí had investigated the complaint from the British police authorities.

In 1997, McGennis was convicted of abusing Ms Collins and another girl in his former parish in Co Wicklow. He received an 18-month sentence, which was later halved on appeal.

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