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Residents Protest against Housing of Paedophile Priest

Irish Times, November 13, 2002

A group calling itself Working Class Action (WCA) is calling on local people in the Sheriff St/North Wall area to contact the Minister of Justice to express their concern at the placing of convicted paedophile Fr Ivan Payne in Dublin's north inner city.

The group distributed 1,000 leaflets in the area last night to highlight the presence of Fr Payne in the area. They say concerned local residents contacted the group and wanted to hold a march to urge him to leave the area.

Fr Payne was released from jail last month after serving 4½ years of a six-year sentence. He will remain a priest in the care of the Dublin archdiocese but he has been barred by the Catholic Church from administering the sacraments.

He was convicted in 1998 after pleading guilty to 13 sample charges of indecently assaulting nine boys on dates from 1968 to 1987.

The Church said on his release he would be provided with accommodation by the archdiocese and an income equivalent to that of a retired priest.

Working Class Action says Fr Payne has been housed in a luxury apartment close to a number of childrens' facilities in the area.

A spokesman for WCA said someone within the Justice or Probation service made the decision, "and placed our children in danger as a result."

He continued: "We believe that a mechanism must be put in place at a national policy level to ensure that communities are consulted, or at least informed, in advance of such a placement."

Protect and Care

The Irish Times - Friday, November 15, 2002

It is fortunate that yesterday evening's planned protest to the presumed home of the convicted sex-abuse priest, Father Ivan Payne, who was released from jail recently, was called off at the last minute.

This was a protest that could have turned ugly, given the strength of feeling among some local people, just as much as it would have set a benchmark for future such occasions.

We live in a free society and while all people have a right to peaceful protest, no-one has a right to target an individual - no matter how heinous his or her crime - with a view to hounding them out of their area. Equally, however, while the Roman Catholic Church has a duty of care to one of its own - no matter how far fallen - it also has a duty to act responsibly, bearing in mind the interests and concerns of the wider community.

To an increasing degree, the Church is seeking to do so, after, it must be said, a series of shocking lapses - collective and individual - of both judgment and duty. The stated willingness of the Church to co-operate with any Government-ordered inquiry into sex-abuse priests is evidence of a changed attitude, albeit one forced upon it. There are still Canon Law recidivists who think the Church answers first to God and second, if at all, to man. It is clear, however, that the influence of such people is on the wane, at least within the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Under those same Canon Laws, the Church is obliged to provide accommodation and a basic income for its priests. Father Payne remains a priest. And it is perhaps better that he does: defrocked and returned to civilian life, his only legal obligation would be to register with the Garda within seven days of moving into accommodation. At least Father Payne, so long as he remains within the embrace of the Church, is likely to have a job with it and a circle of friends who can keep an eye on him. He should be found a home inside Church property.

About 80 sex offenders have been freed from jail this year. They have to live somewhere. If we give in to street rule, released offenders will merely disappear abroad or hide here. Far better that those who remain part of the Church live within its precincts. Non-clerical sex offenders are less likely to re-offend if they are not cut off totally from the rest of society after they have served their sentences. But the Government needs to consider legislation to put in place a framework of close monitoring that is more than a one-off registering with the gardaí.

Coherent Strategy Urged for Release of Offenders

The Irish Times - Friday, November 15, 2002 by Alison Healy and Patsy McGarry

People should be wary of getting involved in a witch hunt against convicted sex abusers, a psychotherapist has warned. Ms Marie Keenan, who works with abusers and their victims, said offenders released from prison here were fleeing to England because they were being hounded from their homes.

She was speaking after newspaper reports claimed that Father Ivan Payne, recently released after serving 4½ years for the sex abuse of boys, was living in an apartment at Dublin's International Financial Services Centre.

Yesterday, it was reported that Father Payne had been there, but had now gone. Residents from the area marched on the apartment block on Wednesday night, demanding that he leave. It is understood that plans to accommodate the priest in Co Kildare had to be abandoned after previous newspaper reports.

Ms Keenan called for a coherent strategy for releasing sex offenders into the community. But, she said, there was no point in drawing up such a strategy without community involvement. Treatment must be a key part of any reintegration into society. Family members, who were aware of the full history of the abuse, should also be involved to support the offender.

Finding acceptable accommodation was "almost impossible", as any place could always be construed as being too near a school or playground or creche. If Irish society did not take action, it would result in the export of our sex abuse problem, just as our abortion problem was exported, Ms Keenan said.

We were already "on the road" to having gardaí on duty outside sex offenders' homes to protect them. People should remember that sex offenders who had served jail sentences were a lower risk than abusers who were not caught and continued to abuse.

She also warned against the "warehousing" of offenders, as was being considered by the Catholic Church in the US. If the public began to call for this in Ireland, the church here might take that path but it would be a mistake, she said.

Privately, church sources admit it is difficult to find accommodation for convicted priests. "It's like a dump or incinerator. No one wants one near them," a priest said.

Payne Gone from North City Apartment

The Irish Times - Friday, November 15, 2002 by Kitty Holland

The convicted sex offender, Father Ivan Payne, has moved from an apartment near Dublin's Financial Services Centre, where he had been staying since his release from prison last month, it is understood.

Mr Gerry Fay, chairman of the North Wall Community Association, said "police sources" had assured him yesterday that Father Payne had gone from the apartment at Clarion Quay.

Asked to be more specific about how he knew that Father Payne had gone, he said he could only say "police sources" told him so.

"He's definitely gone, yes, gone, bingo," he said.

A number of residents from the nearby Sherriff Street and Spencer Dock areas - the Garda estimated 45 to 50 people - had marched on the apartment on Wednesday night in protest at Father Payne's presence, prompted by fears for the safety of their children.

He is said, however, to have had already gone from the apartment in the wake of reports last weekend that the Dublin archdiocese was paying €1,600 a month rent to house him there.

Ms Mary Curtin, spokeswoman for the Dublin archdiocese, was unable to confirm last night if Father Payne had gone from the apartment permanently.

"Housing him there had always been intended as a temporary arrangement and the situation is under review," she said. "He did not spend \ night there and wasn't due to be there this weekend."

Local residents who spoke to The Irish Times yesterday said no one wanted Father Payne living in the area. Several asked why the church had chosen to house him in an area "rife with kids".

Ms Carmel McCarthy, a mother of four, said she had not seen him in the area herself but had read he was there "in the paper".

Asked where she thought a convicted child abuser should live on their release from prison, she said: "On Spike Island. Is that still open? Let him play with himself there. Everybody around here is worried."

Ms Anna Heavey, who has five children aged between six and 18, said: "Yes, he has done his time, but he should've been put in a place with no children."

A number said their own children were "terrified to go out".

"My kid, Owen, is only seven," Ms Martina Butler said. "He won't go round to the shop. And he can't understand that he is a priest. He keeps saying: 'And he's a priest, ma.' I had to give him his inhaler twice last night. He is literally terrified."

She asked why Father Payne had not been accommodated in the Archbishop's Palace. Other residents, including Mr William Byrne, said the church should house convicted child sex offenders in "All Hallows, or Clonliffe College or the Archbishop's House".

"Everyone deserves a second chance after prison but," he said, referring to the fact Father Payne refused treatment in prison, "only if they make an effort. He doesn't want to get well."

His wife, Ms Rosaleen Byrne, said the church had treated North Wall residents and Father Payne unfairly. "It's not his fault he was put living there. It can't be nice for him living in a place where nobody wants him."

Mr Fay criticised the church for not telling residents Father Payne would be housed near them, saying it gave rise to a "feeding frenzy". He said: "A fear factor built up and took on a life of its own. One phone call to the residents' association would have put them right. We could have told them putting him here was not going to work. Then none of this would have arisen," he said.