Ferns diocese settles with alleged abuse victim

SERIOUS questions remain unanswered now the Catholic Church has settled a legal action with an alleged victim of clerical sexual abuse in a Wexford diocese plagued by allegations, a victims’ group says.

The Diocese of Ferns has agreed an undisclosed settlement with 27-year-old Fiona Gahan, a victim of alleged clerical sexual abuse in the parish of Monageer in 1988. It brings to at least six the number of settlements agreed in the region.

Ms Gahan was 12 when abused on the altar of her local church by the late Fr Jim Grennan. It is alleged Fr Grennan ordered Ms Gahan and 10 other schoolgirls to close their eyes during a pre-Confirmation ceremony and fondle his genitals.

In a joint statement the diocese confirmed legal proceedings between Ms Gahan and the Diocese of Ferns had been resolved.

"The diocese wishes to acknowledge publicly the hurt experienced by Fiona Gahan. Bishop Walsh and the Gahan family urge that the differences surrounding the events of 1988 be set aside in the interests of all involved," said Fr John Carroll, Ferns Diocesan spokesman.

But abuse victim Colm O'Gorman and director of the support group, One in Four, says while the Church has faced up to its responsibility in the case, the South Eastern Health Board, the Department of Education and the gardaí still have questions to answer.

He said these must be answered at the ongoing Ferns Inquiry in Dublin.

"Questions remain unanswered by the State, which validated this abuse. It has to explain why someone who a health board said had a case to answer was allowed to be reinstated and reintroduced to the parish and became manager of the local school.

"The Church may well have answered its case. But now it's up to the Department of Education and Science to tell us why he was made manager of the local school; the health board must explain why it did not follow up when it showed he had a case to answer. And we must find out what happened to the garda file which went missing," Mr O'Gorman said.

South Eastern Health Board director of community care Dr Paddy Judge reported on the Monageer case when complaints were raised by parents at the local school. He found Fr Grennan was "a danger to children and should be removed from the parish".

In August 1988, the health board wrote to the bishop to inform him of the findings of their probe. It wasn't until March 1989 that Bishop Brendan Comiskey wrote back to the health board, acknowledging the letter and seeking copies of statements by parents etc.

Fr Grennan was removed for just three weeks and was returned to the parish and made manager of the local school board. Meanwhile, the abuse continued.

Other allegations also surfaced.

It is believed a number of ther cases are pending.

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