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added to on September 29, 2006

Rory Connor wrote:
Date: Tue, 26 Sep 2006 17:32:54 +0100 (BST)
From: Rory Connor
To: Professor Vincent Comerford,Ronan Fanning,"Dr. Colum Kenny", Daire Keogh, Dermot Keogh, "Dr. Eoin O'Sullivan", Professor Irene Whelan, Editor History Ireland , John Horgan , Louise.Fuller

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The following is a highly significant episode that has been ignored by historians of modern Ireland - the first publication (in April 1994) of an allegation of paedophilia made against an Irish Bishop. And yet it set the scene for much that was to follow - not just the false allegations against Archbishop McQuaid published in 1999 or the recent ones against Bishop Casey. In November 1994 the Government of Albert Reynolds fell amid lying claims that the Catholic Church had tried to prevent the extradition of Father Brendan Smyth to Northern Ireland. THAT bout of hysteria did not emerge out of thin air; the "Bishop and the Paedophile Ring" affair helped to create the atmosphere in which it could happen.


Rory Connor
26 September 2006

Irish Times, 22 April 1994 by Andy Pollack, Religious Affairs Correspondent

[MY SUMMARY: On 2 April 1994, The Guardian, which is Britain's most distinguished "liberal" newspaper, published an allegation that a senior Irish Bishop was linked to a paedophile ring. This claim had been previously investigated by a number of British TABLOIDS which rejected it as false! The Irish Times report - below- contains little more than the text of The Guardian apology. However the more down-market Sunday Independent published a detailed report into the background of the libel.

So if you are afraid of false allegations, it is the QUALITY press that you should be wary of!]

The Guardian has accepted that an article it published earlier this month, claiming that a senior Irish bishop was linked to a paedophile ring, contained "no evidence to substantiate such a serious and damaging allegation", and has apologised to any bishop who might have been offended.

A formal complaint was made by the Irish Bishops Conference to the editor of the British newspaper about the article. The Hierarchy's spokesman, Bishop Thomas Flynn, yesterday welcomed the Guardian's decision to publish an agreed statement to meet its complaint in its weekend edition tomorrow.

The statement will read: "In an article on priests and celibacy in the Catholic Church in the Guardian Weekend of April 2, in the context of an allegation that "the institutional church" shifts errant priests rather than risk damaging exposure, it was stated that "in Ireland at the moment the name of one senior bishop is widely linked to a paedophile ring" and that "this bishop continues his ministry in some remote corner of the Republic".

"Bishop Thomas Flynn, on behalf of the Irish Bishops Conference, has complained that the context in which this reference to an alleged paedophile bishop was made seriously damages the reputation of the episcopate in the Republic, by implying that they have been culpably negligent in an extremely grave matter involving one of their members.

"Bishop Flynn states categorically that the Irish bishops have not a single shred of evidence which suggests that any of its members is linked in any way whatsoever to paedophilia.

"He also states that because the article did not publish any name, the good name and character of the relatively few members of the Irish episcopate to whom the geographical designation in the article could apply, have been seriously damaged.

"The Guardian accepts that the reference to the bishop in our article is a particularly grave matter about which the Irish Episcopal Conference is seriously concerned.

"The Guardian accepts that the article contains no evidence to substantiate such a serious and damaging allegation, which was made to us by sources within, or close to, the Catholic Church, whom we believe to be responsible and reliable, and who identified a bishop by name. We confirm that we did not put the claims made by our sources to official representatives of the institutional church.

"As the Guardian did not name any bishop in its article, we wish to state that it was never our intention to damage in any way the reputations of Irish bishops generally. We are therefore happy to place on record the position of the Irish Bishops Conference and to apologise to any bishop in the Republic who may unintentionally have been offended by the article." [My emphasis].

MY COMMENT: That is all that The Irish Times published about this disgusting episode. There was no investigation into the background of the allegation or into the identity of the Guardian's source who was "within or close to the Catholic Church". The Guardian has not published the identity of the slanderer but I believe he is well known in journalistic circles and indeed outside of them.

The Irish Times is the bastion of "liberalism" in Ireland (like the Guardian in the UK). However a less "progressive" newspaper did investigate the background to the libel.

Sunday Independent, 10 April 1994 Sam Smyth on the anatomy of a scandal that wasn't.

The 'bishop in the paedophile ring' story published in the Guardian was an allegation too far.

Had the newspaper simply claimed that an anonymous Irish bishop was gay, few would have noticed - and even fewer been outraged.

However The Guardian's feature on celibacy and the Irish priesthood which seems to have gratuitously liked the bishop to male prostitution, was the first publication in a mainstream newspaper of allegations made in Irish and British fringe magazines over the past three years.

Both Private Eye and Phoenix carried lurid stories claiming that the prelate had an encounter with a rent boy in a London hotel and of his arrest for the alleged importuning of a male prostitute in King's Cross.

But despite investigations by this journalist and others, both the hotel and King's Cross stories, were not only without foundation, but could have been manufactured with malice. [my emphasis].

The background to the rumours surrounding the bishop is a fascinating anatomy of gossip. For some ten years religious correspondents on several newspapers heard stories that a prominent Irish Catholic clergyman was homosexual. Former religious affairs correspondent at The Irish Times, John Cooney, recalled: "I heard the stories from diplomatic sources in Dublin and London and I know members of the Irish Hierarchy were aware of the rumours. But in the pre-Casey scandal era it was not considered a story for a mainstream Irish newspaper, but possible fodder for the British tabloids."

The story first appeared in the British satirical magazine, Private Eye, three years ago. It claimed that a young man was detained by security men wandering around a London hotel in the early hours of the morning. The suspected thief claimed to have been visiting a guest in a room occupied by the cleric and a check on the phone calls from the cleric's room, logged by the computer, allegedly revealed calls made to male escort agencies. This story was repeated in the Phoenix magazine on June 18 last year along with a claim that the "high ranking cleric" had been caught in King's Cross for soliciting rent boys and that he was "reprimanded and cautioned but released without charge."

After the Bishop Casey scandal, the bishop's supposed homosexuality was accepted without question.

Last year, this reporter met a woman closely associated with the legal profession who who said a friend had been told by an impeccable source that the tale was true. I asked to speak to her source, an Irish lawyer based abroad.

The next day I was given his number and called him, a man of the highest integrity and reputation. He insisted the information had been given to him by a highly placed source at Westminster just five days before. There was no reason then, or now, to doubt his motives, sincerity or honesty.

However Scotland Yard told me that not only had the prelate not been arrested or cautioned in the past few weeks, but their computer had no record of him ever being arrested. He added that if a bishop had been arrested the British tabloids would have paid a tip-off bounty of at least 500 pounds for the information to anyone, including a police officer - so it was unlikely to have remained a secret.

The present and past managers of the hotel where the other incident was alleged to have taken place with the youth from the escort agency, have no knowledge of the incident - and they stressed that they would have known if it had happened.

For the past few months rumours circulated among Dublin journalists of "investigative teams" from British tabloids who had flown in to "out the bishop". However there is no evidence of any team from any British newspaper actively working on the "gay Bishop" story.

Several Dublin-based reporters for British tabloids attempted to check it out. Paddy Clancy, the Sun's man in Ireland said he had failed to substantiate the story. Another freelance who works for British tabloids said he, too, drew a blank.

Eight days ago an article by Susie MacKenzie in The Guardian weekend supplement about celibacy and the Catholic priesthood made a reference to a bishop's involvement in a paedophile ring. It outraged the Catholic Hierarchy who apparently considered taking a class libel suit on behalf of the country's 30 bishops. On Friday the Bishop's Conference announced that they had made a formal complaint to the Guardian and Bishop Thomas Flynn said they were "highly offended".

The Guardian said it is taking the complaint "very seriously". The source of the information on which the 'bishop and paedophile ring' allegation was made is understood to be a priest. [My emphasis].

According to research, it would not be surprising if there was one homosexual among any 30 men, although there is not one iota of evidence to suggest that there is a gay Irish bishop. But all the rumours circulated to suggest that there is a practising homosexual among the Irish Catholic hierarchy have proved to be false - and there might well have been malice in the manufacturing of them.

MY COMMENT: It is sometimes stated that false allegations of child abuse are the result of hysteria generated by "tabloid trash" like the News of the World. Reference is often made to an episode in Wales where a paediatrician was driven from her home by a mob which could not tell the difference between paediatrician and paedophile. Indeed this story is based on a real event which took place during a "name and shame" campaign by the News of the World. However the episode has been greatly exaggerated. (The "mob" consisted of one person and the lady was NOT forced from her home).

It is the MAINSTREAM media which has generated most of the hysteria about child abuse. It was the Guardian, The Irish Times, RTE etc. that published false allegations (including allegations of child killing) that were later picked up by the tabloid press. In the case of the "Bishop and the Paedophile Ring" the tabloids investigated the rumours but realised that they were false. It was the 'liberal; high-minded Guardian that published the libel. And it was the Independent, NOT the high-minded Irish Times, that published a detailed report on the background to the libel.



The following is an extract from an article by Bruce Arnold in the Irish Independent 5 years later on 15 May 1999, regarding Gay Byrne who was retiring as presenter of the long-running Late, Late Show: (Note - Bruce Arnold is slandering Bishop Brendan Comiskey, not Bishop Magee; I include the passage here also, in order to demonstrate that the popular press is now operating on the same moral level as its "intellectual" counterparts.)

Like a well-written and well-presented column in a mass-circulation tabloid newspaper, Gay Byrne undoubtedly made a major contribution to the moral and social change implicit in what television was doing overall. He first challenged the Church and particularly its bishops to admit, by coming on his shows, that they existed. Then he demonstrated that they were more or less human, like the rest of us. Then he showed us that they were fallible to the point of being in frequent breach of the moral code which it was their very existence to interpret and uphold. And in a sense the rest is history. Their copes and mitres, their grand cathedrals and weighty expositions on moral behaviour, had no chance against the revelation that they drank, slept with women, fathered illegitimate children, concealed sexual abuse within their dioceses, maybe even indulged in it themselves, allowed criminally cruel institutions to operate without the State's control, and at heart had amazingly limited understanding of the trials and tribulations of ordinary members of the christian family, whose welfare they should also have been protecting.