Justice Minister Alan Shatter has appointed the chief garda for domestic violence and sexual abuse to examine revelations about priests working in Africa.
Speaking after the Prime Time Investigates exposé on Monday, the Fine Gael minister said he shared the “widespread public disgust” that abuse may have occurred. He said that despite the alleged crimes taking place abroad, perpetrators could be brought to justice in this country.
“There can be no hiding place for those who do these despicable acts to children.
“Our law does provide, in the Sexual Offences (Jurisdiction) Act, 1996, that in certain circumstances, persons can be tried here for sexual offences against a child which are committed abroad,” Mr Shatter said.
The Prime Time programme detailed a list of alleged abuses and rapes of African children in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria by Irish priests — some of which took place just five years ago.
The cases include:
The rape of teenage Sudanese illegal immigrant to South Africa, Adam Okot, who left his country after his entire family had been killed. He was allegedly abused by Belfast-born Fr Michael McAuley in 2000 while seeking help from the Church in Cape Town. Fr McAuley, who has since passed away, had previously been secretly sent to the US for “treatment” after earlier allegations but was not deemed a risk by the Redemptorist missionaries.
Fr Kevin Reynolds, who, is alleged to be the father of a now 29-year-old daughter after raping a Kenyan girl called Veneranda. Fr Reynolds, who denies the allegations, returned to Ireland in 2004 and has been working in the Ahascragh parish in Co Galway.
Fr Gerry Geraghty, who it is claimed attacked a then seven-year-old Maasai tribe schoolboy called Michael Ole Uka while working in Nairobi, Kenya, when he was meant to be helping with his education. When Michael ran away, the Irishman, who now lives in Dublin, is alleged to have travelled to his home and brought him back, where he was re-abused.
Fr Geraghty refused to comment on the matter.
The executive of the Irish Missionary Union, Fr Eamon Aylward, said these cases are “undoubtedly” the tip of the iceberg.
Maeve Lewis, of survivor support group One in Four, said the allegations show the clear need to extend the Murphy commission to include abuse involving Irish priests abroad.
The call came as a five-year, $2 million study into the causes of clerical sexual abuse, commissioned by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, claimed priests abuse mainly because of changing cultural beliefs.
The finding has been ridiculed by abuse survivors.