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Brendan Smyth: Victims of paedophile priest cannot sue church

Brendan Smyth Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Brendan Smyth died in prison in 1997

Victims of a paedophile priest have been prevented from taking fresh legal action against the Catholic Church.

The High Court in Dublin made the ruling against the trio, who settled cases against Brendan Smyth in 1998.

The victims alleged negligence because complaints made about Smyth in 1975 were not reported.

But the judge said that the alleged new or additional facts were already in the public domain when the cases were settled.

The trio 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 clerics had not taken steps to prevent Smyth from molesting children in the 1970s and 1980s.

It was claimed the churchmen did not report complaints about Smyth that emerged in an interview with two boys in 1975.

'Partial settlement'

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.

One of the victims was paid 30,000 euros (£25,000) under the deal in 1998.

Lawyers for the victims said the content of the 1975 interviews was "actively concealed" in their court proceedings in the 1990s, and if they had known, they would not have settled the case for that amount.

They also said the earlier settlement was a partial one.

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."

Smyth was convicted of dozens of offences against children over a 40-year period.

He died in prison of a heart attack in 1997 just a month into a 12-year sentence.

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