The first victim of paedophile Bill Kenneally to speak out publicly against the former sports coach has welcomed the Government’s approval of a commission of investigation into allegations of State, Garda, and Church collusion in the case.
“I’m delighted, it’s brilliant,” said Jason Clancy after the Cabinet backed Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan’s proposal to press ahead with an official inquiry into the State response to complaints or allegations of child sexual abuse made against Kenneally.
The Oireachtas is expected to debate and approve the move in the next fortnight and the Government will then publish the terms of reference for the commission of investigation, to be headed by retired judge Barry Hickson.
Former basketball coach Bill Kenneally, aged 67, from Waterford City, was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2016 after pleading guilty to 10 sample charges regarding abuse of a number of boys in Waterford in the 1980s. That sentence has since been upheld by the Court of Appeal.
A number of Kenneally’s victims waived their anonymity at the sentencing hearing to demand a State inquiry into how abuse allegations were initially handled by gardaí, the political system, health authorities, and Catholic Church.
After several meetings and delays, the commission looks set to be formally established in the coming weeks, with €1.3m sanctioned for costs.
“This is really what we’ve been looking for,” said Mr Clancy. “We’ve had full input into the terms of reference, it was hugely important to us. To be fair to them, they listened to us and they accepted what we had to say. We’re very, very happy.”
“To be fair to Mr Flanagan, he said to trust him and give him a bit of time to get it sorted, and to be fair to him he stuck to his word. We have to thank him for that.”
It is unclear where the commission of investigation will sit, although there has been speculation it will move between Waterford and Dublin and that some of its business will be conducted in public. These are matters for the terms of reference.
The Government expects the commission to take up to a year to report, from the time of its establishment, although Mr Clancy said there is “a huge amount” of work to get through, “probably more, actually, than they realise. We’ve a lot more information to give him as well that they’re actually not aware of yet.”
Mr Flanagan said it was “an important day for the survivors of abuse committed by Bill Kenneally”.
The commission proceedings will be “monitored” by both the attorney general and DPP to ensure there is no impact on any pending legal cases.
Mr Flanagan said he believes the setting up of the inquiry would result in more people coming forward.
He said he wanted to acknowledge the unique circumstances of the commission in so far as there are a number of criminal trials outstanding.
He said: “It may well be that more people will come forward now that the commission has been set up. So obviously every effort must be made to ensure the commission doesn’t engage in anything that might cut across the Garda investigation or the criminal proceedings that are under way.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved