Victims of a notorious paedophile priest have been barred from taking further legal action against the Catholic Church because of an earlier settlement.
Three people who were abused by Brendan Smyth took a case against the Bishop of Kilmore Leo O’Reilly and Cardinal Sean Brady, the head of the Catholic church in Ireland.
They alleged the high-ranking clerics had not taken steps to prevent Smyth from molesting children in the 1970s and 1980s.
It was claimed the church did not report complaints about Smyth that emerged in an interview with two boys in 1975, and which they argued were concealed during a previous court action in the 1990s.
The new action, which was contested by the Catholic Church, was taken against Bishop O’Reilly, as successor to Bishop Francis McKiernan and Cardinal Brady, a former secretary to the Bishop of Kilmore.
But in a judgment handed down by Dublin’s High Court, the victims were told they could not launch a fresh case over alleged negligence as a settlement had already been paid out by Smyth’s Norbertine Order.
One of the victims was paid €30,000 under the deal in 1998.
In his ruling, Justice Nicholas Kearns said there was no new cause of action arising from the revelations about the 1975 interview.
“It goes without saying that no claim could ever be regarded as finalised and concluded if it could be set aside in circumstances where a newly discovered complication were to come to light in the aftermath of a settlement,” he ruled.
“Settlements must in the interests of the proper administration of justice achieve finality of disputes.”
In a statement, Bishop O’Reilly said: “I acknowledge and I deeply regret the great suffering that all three plaintiffs endured at the hands of Father Smyth and I utterly condemn his actions and the betrayal of trust that they represent.”