Three people sexually abused by paedophile priest Brendan Smyth want the Supreme Court to permit them sue a Catholic bishop here over the Church’s alleged failure to act to prevent Smyth abusing children.
If the Church had in 1975 kept “under wraps” facts that would have identified Smyth as being an abuser of children, that is a matter of “significant public importance” entitling his side to appeal to the Supreme Court, Michael Counihan, counsel for the three, said.
The Court of Appeal last November granted Bishop Leo O’Reilly orders halting the three actions brought here against him, in his capacity as representative of the Kilmore diocese, over the Church’s alleged failure to move to stop Smyth’s abuse.
The three — a man, his sister, and a cousin — settled Northern Ireland court actions in 1998 for £25,000 damages each over being sexually abused over years as children by Smyth.
The Northern cases were against Smyth, the Norbertine order, and then Cardinal Cahal Daly as representative of the Catholic Church. The £25,000 payments were made by the Norbertines.
The three said it was represented to them in 1998 the Norbertines had limited assets to satisfy any awards and contend the settlements did not adequately compensate for the damage inflicted on them. They say, when they agreed the Northern settlements, they were unaware of meetings allegedly showing Church representatives were told in 1975 of Smyth’s abuse, including abuse of one of the the three, but failed to act to stop it.
In their actions here, initiated in 2012, the plaintiffs sued Bishop O’Reilly as representative of the diocese of Kilmore and also sued former cardinal Sean Brady in his personal capacity arising from his role as part-time secretary to former bishop of Kilmore, Francis McKiernan, during a church investigation in 1975 into complaints about Smyth.
An appeal against a Court of Appeal decision can only be brought to the Supreme Court if the latter decided the case meets certain criteria, including raising issues of significant public importance.
Seeking leave yesterday to bring such an appeal, Mr Counihan argued his clients’ cases arose from “very sinister and nefarious activities” of Smyth and involve important issues including about the Church’s duty of care and the psychological effect on his clients when they later learned about the 1975 meetings.
His side contended, had information about Smyth “targeting” his “nefarious intentions” towards the family of one of the three been disclosed by the Church in 1975, the subsequent assaults on the three would have been avoided.
The informants to the Church’s inquiry into Smyth’s abuse were boys who, at the end of the inquiry, were “sworn to secrecy” on “religious oath” not to reveal the information they were giving and told it would be sinful to reveal to others what they knew Smyth was doing, counsel said.
“The knowledge is much deeper than the Church is willing to own,” Mr Counihan added.
Opposing the application, Rossa Fanning, for Bishop O’Reilly, said, while his side accepted the fact of child sex abuse by a “notorious” abuser is of public importance, the legal issues raised here were not of public importance.
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