Northern Ireland

Fr Brendan Smyth case: Calls for Irish government action over police failings

Fr Brendan Smyth
Image caption Fr Brendan Smyth, who died in 1997, was convicted of over 100 indecent assaults against children across Ireland

The Irish government is facing calls to respond to revelations that police failed to prosecute the paedophile priest, Brendan Smyth, in the 1970s.

It emerged this week at the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry that Gardaí (Irish police) knew Smyth was a paedophile as far back as 1973.

Smyth continued to abuse for more than 20 years, until he was jailed in 1994.

Both the main opposition party, Fianna Fáil, and Sinn Féin have called on the government to take action on the case.

'Dismay and disgust'

Sinn Fein has urged Dublin ministers to set-up an independent judicial review into the HIA revelations.

Fianna Fáil's justice spokesperson, Niall Collins, urged the Irish minister for justice and the head of the police to set up a "mechanism" to address concerns that state agencies failed to act to protect Smyth's victims.

Mr Collins said: "Along with the rest of the country, I have watched with growing dismay and disgust as further details of Brendan Smyth's abuse has been laid bare in the hearings in Banbridge.

"The absolute priority of the Irish state needs to be his victims and ensuring they get the support that they are entitled to."

'Disturbing'

The Fianna Fáil member added "I have today written to the Garda [police] commissioner and minister for justice and called on them to come forward with a proposed mechanism, at the earliest possible opportunity, to address the concerns of the victims following the revelations that the state appears to have been made aware of the child abuse allegations against Brendan Smyth in 1973 but failed to take action against him until 1994."

Sinn Fein's justice spokesman, Pádraigh Mac Lochlainn, said "This is particularly disturbing because it's those that we trust to protect our society and to look after out laws.

"So, it's particularly serious when it's the Garda Siochána and that's why it needs a serious response from government."

Referring to the HIA inquiry, Mr Mc Lochlainn added: "It is essential that the Irish government assist and complement, in their response, what is taking place in the North."

In a statement on Friday evening, a spokesman for the Department of Justice in Dublin said "The process which is under way in Northern Ireland in relation to historical abuse is ongoing and any conclusions or findings of relevance to this jurisdiction will be studied as and when they are made, taking into account in particular the historical inquiries which have already been carried out in this jurisdiction."

Meanwhile, a man who was sexually abused as a teenager by Fr Brendan Smyth has said Irish police must be held responsible for the abuse he suffered in the 1970s.

Brendan Boland said: "[Gardaí] are equally as responsible as the Catholic Church because they chose not to prosecute him."

Belfast-born Smyth was eventually convicted of more than 100 indecent assaults against children, in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

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