Email Us My Blog

Mother Lifted Lid on a Litany of Abuse

Irish Independent, 29 April 1998

THE investigation into abuse by Father Ivan Payne began in July 1995 when a mother took her two sons to Howth garda station and made a complaint, writes Annemaria McEneaney.

The priest's sudden and swift departure from Sutton just before that, where he had been attached to St Fintan's Church, led gardai to believe the brothers might not be alone. So they decided to look for other possible victims.

Fr Payne had been removed from the parish when the Archdiocese became aware that news of his £27,500 out-of-court settlement two years previously to Andrew Madden a former altar boy from Cabra who alleged abuse was about to hit the headlines.

The investigation by Det Sgt Bernard Sherry and colleague Willie McKenna resulted in 150 former altar boys in Sutton being personally interviewed by the two men, and several more contacted abroad.

There was profound disbelief among some parishioners in Sutton that their charismatic, wonderful priest was being scrutinised in this way. The media was ejected from the church by parishioners. The gardai were accused of lying and ``muck-raking'', and were even verbally abused by some of the incredulous former altar servers.

No resistance to the Garda investigation came from the ``devastated'' parish priest and curate of St Fintan's, who in Det Sgt Sherry's opinion, were ``left to swim on their own'' in dealing with the crisis. They had had no idea of his past.

The priests offered the investigation team an extensive list of former altar boys dating back to 1982 when Fr Payne came to Sutton. From this, one other victim was discovered, but he declined to make a criminal complaint.

However, other victims were coming forward. Following media coverage of the controversial loan made by Archbishop Desmond Connell to Fr Payne help him pay the damages to Andrew Madden, former altar boys approached either the Archdiocese or other solicitors and were referred to Det Sherry.

Complaints also began coming through Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, and one statement even came via Interpol from New Zealand.

The worst abuse was perpetrated on a boy Payne met in 1981 at the Sunshine Home, Balbriggan, a holiday venue for disadvantaged children. Although eventually charged with indecent assault, it is understood the alleged abuse involved attempted buggery and oral sex.

In all, 22 victims of the priest were traced, although only nine cases eventually made it to court.

Although consultant psychotherapist Marie Keenan told the court that Fr Payne acknowledged his actions and made full disclosure to her very quickly after beginning treatment in the summer of 1995, Det Sherry said yesterday that the 54-year-old priest never admitted any of his crimes to the gardai when interviewed in 1996, albeit on legal advice.

But he pointed out that the priest flatly denied ``inappropriate activity'' in two cases for which he later pleaded guilty. He had been living in a flat in Drumcondra, across from Archbishop's house, from 1995 until the court hearing, but was always available to the gardai for interview.

A chaplain for two years in Our Lady's Hospital (1968-70), Fr Payne continued to be a ``named'' chaplain at the hospital until 1974. At that time he was living in Mourne Rd, Drimnagh where more abuse took place. He then moved to Cabra.

On a Primetime TV programme in September 1995 outlining details of the controversial loan from diocesan funds, a spokesman for Archbishop Connell said he knew the priest had a problem in the late '70s and early 80s when he was removed from the parish of Christ the King, Cabra. After the settlement, the matter was not reported to the gardai, as is current Church policy, and the priest remained in Sutton for a further two years.

In his statement last night, Archbishop Connell said Fr Payne was referred for psychiatric assessment in 1981. Based on the consultant's report, the diocese considered he could continue his ministry. Ten years had elapsed with no problems reported.

Two further psychiatric reviews took place in 1991 and 1994, which confirmed the earlier reports. On this basis, Fr Payne continued at St Fintan's, Sutton until July 1995.