John Cooney and Fr John Fitzpatrick (Secretary to Archbishop McQuaid)
The Irish Times - Thursday, November 11, 1999
Sir, - Father John Fitzpatrick, a former secretary of Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, should read my forthcoming book, John Charles McQuaid, Ruler of Catholic Ireland, before rushing to a moralistic judgment on the basis of newspaper reports and the frantic media debate which was polarised to some degree by the intervention of officials of the Communications Office of the Dublin Diocese.
There are very many important issues and revelations in relation to Dr McQuaid raised in my book, which is a scholarly work running to almost 600 pages, 76 of which are notes relating to archival sources, primarily but not exclusively the McQuaid Papers. In particular it reveals the extent of his extraordinary access to and influence on the most important political figures of the time, including Eamon de Valera, which resulted in his co-authoring of the Irish Constitution; his anti-Semitism; his attempts to crush any organisations with Protestant affiliations; and his secret network of informants who reported on every area of Irish life. His was a power unequalled by any secular or clerical figure of that era.
The book runs from 1895 to 1973 and deals extensively with political and social matters involving W.T. Cosgrave, John A. Costello, Sean MacBride, Sean Lemass, Jack Lynch, Charlie Haughey, five Popes, Cardinal Spellman, senior civil servants and all the great issues of the emerging Irish State.
In the course of my research I discovered the allegation made by a school inspector to Dr Noel Browne that the Archbishop reportedly made improper sexual advances to a publican's son.
My dilemma was whether to suppress this document or to place it in the public domain for calm and objective debate. The Archdiocese's instant and constant denunciation of my finding, ahead of the book's publication has made honest debate very difficult.
Your readers should know that senior personnel of the Dublin Archdiocese refused to meet me for an interview at which we could have discussed the many questions raised by me in my book. Among those who turned down my request for interview were Archbishop Desmond Connell, retired Bishops James Kavanagh and Desmond Williams, the Diocesan Chancellor, Monsignor Gerard Sheehy, and Fr John Fitzpatrick himself. Inspector Joe Devane, who investigated allegations against McQuaid, also refused me an interview.
Father Fitzpatrick purports to invoke a moral law to prohibit my publication of the Noel Browne document. Thankfully, we live in more open-minded days, free of clerical censorship based on a moral monopoly by the Catholic Church like that of Dr McQuaid's time.
My duty was to report the existence of the allegation, now lodged in Dr Browne's papers in Trinity College Dublin.
During an interview in 1995 the late Mrs Mercy Simms, wife of the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, George Otto Simms, and a lady who was generally positively disposed to Dr McQuaid, made an observation to me which I quote in the book: that Dr McQuaid, whom she knew over many years, showed an unhealthy interest in young boys. The book also reveals that Dr McQuaid built up a private library of sexual literature, including pornographic works which were banned under the State's censorship laws.
Until now, the Archdiocese of Dublin has not released to researchers its papers relating to Artane, Goldenbridge, Madonna House and Finglas Remand Home, all institutions with connections to Dr McQuaid. I call on them now to open these papers as part of an informed public debate.
From my research it is clear that, managerially, Dr McQuaid delegated different tasks to different secretaries, so neither Fr Fitzpatrick, who worked with Dr McQuaid toward the end of his life, nor any of his other priest secretaries knew the whole picture. His priest secretaries did not accompany him on all occasions and he would sometimes be accompanied on his travels only by his chauffeur or his valet (neither of them priests).
The book reveals for the first time an amazing record of 25 years of meetings of the Hierarchy, held in strict secrecy. This is based on Dr McQuaid's collection of the official records and his own highly personal notes and recorded thoughts.
Perhaps it is understandable that some church leaders have real fears about my book and have decided to "get their retaliation in first". However I would ask readers not to make a judgment until they have read the book itself, which will be available from November 14th. - Yours, etc.,
Priest Disputes Claim McQuaid Was Paedophile
The Irish Times - Saturday, November 6, 1999
The former secretary of Archbishop John Charles McQuaid does not believe the allegations against him in the forthcoming book by John Cooney. In a letter in today's Irish Times, Father John Fitpatrick, who is now a parish priest in Whitehall, Co Dublin, says he has checked his recollections with other colleagues who worked for Dr McQuaid.
"I never knew the archbishop to have visited a pub, much less frequented one," he writes. "I never knew him to drink whiskey. As a matter of fact the only drink I ever saw the archbishop take was a fraction of a glass of wine poured for him at dinner, or a thimbleful of brandy when he was ill . . .
"Is it not gravely wrong to state that anybody is a paedophile without having verifiable evidence to back up such a character-destroying assertion? Surely it is inexcusable to do this when the person is dead and left unprotected by any laws of libel?"
The Irish Times - Saturday, November 6, 1999
Sir, - Two newspapers last Sunday headlined for us that a book on the life of the late Archbishop McQuaid would portray him as having been a paedophile. At least one headline stated as fact that the late Archbishop was "an evil sex abuser of young boys". The evidence for these shocking statements was based on a document given to the author of the book, a document written by the late Dr Noel Browne on foot of a report made to him in a Galway hotel by a retired school inspector, now also deceased.
From what has appeared in print and from what the author has since contributed in radio interviews, the troubled inspector revealed to Dr Browne that Archbishop McQuaid allegedly attempted to sexually assault the young unnamed son of a Dublin publican. This awful incident was said to have taken place in the upstairs private lounge of an unnamed Dublin pub where the Archbishop was supposed to have been in the habit of having a drink.
In the course of a radio interview, the book's author quoted further details from Dr Browne's document. These included that the pub in question was located in Drumcondra, that the incident took place on a Sunday afternoon in the late 1950s, that the publican's son served the Archbishop because it was a very busy time for the regular staff, that it was perhaps after a match in nearby Croke Park, and that the Archbishop was served a whiskey.
I was a secretary to Archbishop McQuaid for the last nine years of his life. I have spoken to colleagues who were on his staff back to the mid-1950s and their experience resembles mine. I never knew the Archbishop to have visited a pub, much less frequented one. I never knew him to drink whiskey. As a matter of fact, the only drink I ever saw the Archbishop take was a fraction of a glass of wine poured for him at dinner, or a thimbleful of brandy when he was ill. He was not a Pioneer. He very rarely went over from his home in Killiney to Archbishop's House in Drumcondra on a Sunday. When he did, it was solely for an official function there.
And so, from my experience as secretary, I am not able to accept that Archbishop McQuaid was the man alleged to have been in the private upstairs room drinking whiskey in the Drumcondra pub some time in the late 1950s on a busy Sunday afternoon, possibly after a match in Croke Park, when this sordid incident is supposed to have taken place. I am very sorry for the publican's young son if he had such an awful experience and especially if he was then led to believe that the perpetrator was the Archbishop of Dublin.
I was shocked by the headlines of the Sunday Times and the News of the World. From my experience with the Archbishop, I found them unbelievable and immensely saddening. I feel that the many people, still alive, who worked with admiration and fidelity under the leadership of the Archbishop in the numerous diocesan organisations set up by him during his time in office must today be equally upset. I also feel for my fellow priests who must also be very upset.
Is it not gravely wrong to state that anybody is a paedophile without having verifiable evidence to back up such a character destroying assertion? Surely it is inexcusable to do this when the person is dead and left unprotected by any laws of libel?
John V. Fitzpatrick, PP,
Swords Road, Dublin 9.