Canon Bob Hanna confirmed last night that his Church of Ireland “at top and local levels” have queried why he gave a testimonial on behalf of the former school principal in court earlier this month.
Canon Hanna released the statement after one of Barry’s 11 victims said after his sentencing that she was ‘disturbed’ by the priest’s testimonial.
On Wednesday at Ennis Circuit Court, Judge Gerald Keyes sentenced Barry, aged 80, to 11 years in jail with the final five suspended.
The girls were aged between 9 and 13 when the abuse took place at Moyasta NS between 1964 and 1985.
However, prior to sentencing but after Barry’s conviction of 59 counts of sexual assault against the girls, Canon Hanna described Barry as a ‘spiritual man’.
In the testimonial penned by the Ennis based priest, it stated that Canon Hanna has known Barry for 20 years.
Canon Hanna said: “Padraig’s life of faith was intertwined naturally and gently with normal human pursuits...
The image presented by the conviction seems such a shocking aberration from the generally held picture of a genial, courteous and fulfilled and happily retired professional man whose erudition in local history and culture and church music would make him forever engaged and an enthusiastic neighbour to all.”
Canon Hanna said “Padraig de Barra would have been the last person one would have thought to be involved in any act that would hurt or offend a child”.
Canon Hanna also referred to Barry’s victims in his testimonial speaking of “embracing in love and empathy the real people who live with their tales of hurt and loss”.
In response to the victim’s comments, Canon Hanna said last night: “I fully understand her feelings and those of her fellow victims following the immense hurt which has accompanied them over past decades up to and including the sentencing of Mr Barry. Of course, unreservedly, I would want to make this support even more resonant now that the judge has pronounced…
“Without qualification, the ladies who have suffered this abuse have and deserve my first and greatest sympathy.”
Canon Hanna said that at short notice, he was asked to give a background testimonial for Mr Barry.
“The testimonial was seen on my part to be merely rounding off a personal picture of the man alongside other testimonials. It was not a defence of the man who was convicted.
“I didn’t have the proper opportunity to meet with the offended ladies and offer my condolences as a priest and perhaps I might soon have that.”
Canon Hanna said: “Please include me firmly among the many who stand with the abused known and unknown, hurt and confused at this story of horror surfacing so belatedly from school children of yesteryear but all too real on our doorstep as damaged adults. Justice has been seen to be done, now we must help each other to pick up the pieces.”