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The following  two articles were published in January 2007 on the website

The first article is based on a chapter of Shane Coleman's book "Foot in Mouth"; again it is a piece of journalistic fluff but he covers issues that "serious" historians like Tim Pat Coogan  have chosen to ignore.

The third article is a summary of the Duggan case as provided by the judge who presided over the libel action brought by Albert Reynolds against the Sunday Times. At the time I wrote "The Passion of Nora Wall" I thought that the new AG Eoghan Fitzsimmons had accidentally stumbled on this case and had misunderstood it because of the huge amount of pressure he was under. I now believe that he was deliberately misdirected by a senior member of the Labour Party (probably not the same one who passed on the lie to Pat Rabbitte). By the time Albert Reynolds realised that the Duggan case was not a precedent, it was too late.Reynolds was caught up in the general hysteria but what about the person who initiated the story - was he deluded or did he believe it perhaps in the same way that a Nazi propagandist believes his own propaganda?

Rory Connor
September 2007


Historians have practically ignored the role of Pat Rabbitte in the fall of the Fianna Government of Albert Reynolds in November 1994. Yet it was the first time in the history of the State that a Government fell because of mindless hysteria. It was also the first Government to fall as a result of religious bigotry - involving a false claim that the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland had conspired with a Catholic Attorney General to block the extradition of a paedophile priest. Is this why historians don't like to deal with the issue?

Oddly enough you can get more useful information from journalistic fluff like Gene Kerrigan's satirical opus "This Great little Nation" (1999) and lately Shane Coleman's book on famous Irish political gaffes "Foot in Mouth" (Sept. 2006). It's not that these gentlemen are sticking their necks out and risking the wrath of their liberal colleagues. The books are aimed at the mass market of people who like silly stories. This defuses the effect of the scandals related but it also gets around the ideological blinkers worn by more "serious" writers.


Shane Coleman sets the scene as follows:

"It was the 16 November 1994 and the Dail [Parliament] was experiencing one of its most dramatic days since the Arms Trial almost a quarter of a century before. The Fianna Fail-Labour Government had been under strain for some weeks over Taoiseach [Prime Minister] Albert Reynolds move to appoint his Attorney General (AG) Harry Whelehan as President of the High Court, despite opposition from Labour. Now the Government was on the verge of collapse over the handling of the Father Brendan Smyth extradition case. there had been a delay of seven months in processing the extradition warrant in the office of the AG. Wild and unsubstantiated rumours swept through Leinster House as to the reasons behind that long delay. One of the unfounded rumours was that the AG's office had received a letter from a senior figure in the Catholic Church which contributed to the delay in the Smyth case.


"Pat Rabbitte, then a member of the Democratic Left Party, got up to speak in the Dail during a procedural discussion on the Order of Business. He asked: "Will the Taoiseach and the Tanaiste [Deputy PM] say if. in respect of the recent discovery of documents in the Attorney General's office, there is another document that ought to be before this house that will rock the foundations of this society to its very roots?" Rabbitte added: "If there is such a document its contents should be before this House before Deputy [John] Bruton moves his motion [of no confidence in the government] and we should know now whether the Labour Party has rowed in behind the Taoiseach following the discovery of this document".

"The effect on what was already a highly charged atmosphere was sensational. Rabbitte's dramatic use of vocabulary and the suggestion that the very foundations of society would be rocked, suggested scandal at an unprecedented level.

"Rabbitte's party leader Proinsias de Rossa also waded in. "It seems that we are dealing with one of the most sleazy events in Irish parliamentary history. Is it true that a memorandum has been found in the Attorney General's Office which indicates that there was outside interference in the decision by the Attorney General not to proceed with extradition for seven months?


In his immediate response to Rabbitte in the Dail, Taoiseach Albert Reynolds said his efforts to get to the root of complaints about "documents that are supposed to exist in the Attorney General's office" had drawn a blank. " I understand that one of the stories doing the rounds - this is what I was told when I made inquiries- is that there is supposed to be in existence a certain letter which cannot be traced. I requested my office to contact Deputy Rabbitte to see if he could assist us in accelerating our inquiries and he was not in a position to give us much help......All the staff in the Attorney General's office available in the country have been interviewed about this matter and each and every one of them have said that they have no knowledge whatsoever in this regard...No member of the staff who have been interviewed can assist in this regard. They say they have no knowledge of any such letter."

"Such was the level of speculation sweeping Leinster House that day, that the Catholic Primate, Cardinal Daly, was moved to dismiss as "utterly absurd, untrue and a total fabrication" the rumours that he had made representations to the AGs office on behalf of Fr Smyth. "I can't speak for everyone but I am quite certain that nothing is known to me about any approach whatsoever to anyone connected with this case", he said adding: "IT IS INCOMPREHENSIBLE TO ME HOW ANYONE COULD HAVE INVENTED SUCH A STORY" [my emphasis].

"The strength of Cardinal Daly's comments left little room for doubt and history has shown them to be entirely accurate....."

Shane Coleman goes on to describe the collapse of the Reynold's government  and concludes his article as follows:

"While Rabbitte unquestionably gaffed by going over the top in his comments, it did nothing to stop his rise in Irish politics. Within five years of his party merging with Labour, Rabbitte had become leader of the new party - his robust and colourful debating style [!!] was clearly a factor in his victory."

After the next election, this country is likely to have as Tanaiste [Deputy Prime Minister], a man who uses false allegations concerning child abuse in order  to gain  political power. [No thank goodness! RC 11/09/07]

This was the real beginning of the Child Abuse Witch-hunt in Ireland. It became clear, first that you could slander the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland with impunity and second that you could profit mightily from so doing. Pat Rabbitte has often claimed that the Catholic Church has not paid enough into the compensation scheme for "victims" of child abuse. For him nothing would be enough. He has helped to create a Compensation Culture that is fueled by a heady mixture of greed, anti-clerical bigotry and blind hatred. It is not only the Church that is suffering from this mania and it will long outlast Pat Rabbitte and his political ambitions.


Opus Dei: a victim of the conspiracy theorists

Extract from an article in the Irish Independent on  22 January 2005 by David Quinn
[A member of Opus Dei, Ruth Kelly, was appointed to the British Cabinet in December 2004. This created a furore among those who believe in the "Conspiracy Theory of History". David Quinn points out that the conspiracy theorists are not uneducated idiots but the kind of liberal, progressive, socialist types who created the climate of hysteria that destroyed the government of Albert Reynolds in 1994]

……..Even before these rumours about Kelly began to circulate, however, the name of Opus Dei was already in the ether, thanks mostly to the phenomenally successful bestseller, The Da Vinci Code. This book has sold something in the region of 17 million copies, a truly staggering number. Its central villain is a member of Opus Dei, namely the albino 'monk' Silas, who wears a spiked chain around his thigh so as to 'mortify the flesh' and engages in a little self-flagellation on the side.

And, oh yes, for good measure Silas is an assassin who will stop at nothing for the Kingdom of God... or is that the Kingdom of Opus Dei?

The Da Vinci Code is one giant conspiracy theory but many of its readers actually think it could be correct. Educated types know better. They know that conspiracy theories are the province of overly fertile imaginations.

Or do they? After all, some of the best-educated people in Britain really do believe that Opus Dei is a deeply sinister organisation, a sort of Catholic Illuminati, and a threat to British democracy. Going right back to Henry VIII the plotting, scheming Catholic in thrall to Rome and bent upon restoring the Catholic Church to its rightful place has been part of the British imagination. It looks as if it still is.

In Ireland, too, conspiracy theories can take hold in the very highest reaches of power. Have we forgotten why the Albert Reynolds government fell in 1994? The straw that broke that particular camel's back was the delay in the Attorney Generals Office in processing the papers to extradite the convicted paedophile, Fr Brendan Smyth, from the North.

Immediately rumours began to fly that there was interference from the Catholic Church. Pat Rabbitte, then of Democratic Left, famously said that he had information which would rock the State to its foundations. A member of the Attorney Generals staff was supposed to be in Opus Dei. There was talk that members of Opus Dei had infiltrated some of the most important offices in the land.

Albert Reynolds asked Harry Whelehan's successor as Attorney General whether he was a member of Opus Dei.

An Oireachtas Committee was set up in enquire into the circumstances surrounding the delay in extraditing Fr Smyth. They never discovered anything that remotely smacked of the Catholic conspiracy of rumour. They were chasing shadows.

The Brendan Smyth case made waves in Britain. The British Attorney General at the time was asked whether or not he would employ members of Opus Dei in his Department. He had a quite different attitude from that of Albert Reynolds. He responded: "There is no specific policy in relation to the secondment of Opus Dei members to my Department. The Civil Service does not discriminate on grounds of religion." …….

At bottom, Opus Dei offers a particular kind of spiritual life to its members based on daily Mass, praying in the morning and evening, reading the writings of St Escrows, and reading the Bible. They are supposed to bring an awareness of God with them wherever they go, including into the workplace and to be aware of their responsibility to spread the Gospel. ……

The conspiracy theorists still insist, of course, that behind the scenes within Opus Dei there must be an eminence grise directing all its members and therefore any organisation run by an Opus Dei member is run by Opus Dei itself, and the Opus Dei member is basically an automaton.

Those who are trying to discredit Ruth Kelly by saying she is in Opus Dei are really trying to discredit her presumably because she is an orthodox Catholic. They are hoping to do to her what a majority of European Parliamentarians did last year to Rocco Buttliglione, the Italian nominee to the European Commission. They succeeded in blocking his nomination to the Commission because of his orthodox Catholic beliefs.

The campaign against Kelly seems, at bottom, to be aimed at barring orthodox Catholics from sensitive positions, and her apparent Opus Dei membership is a convenient stick with which to beat her. So far, Blair is having none of it.

COMMENT: Why do I keep harping on about the fall of the Fianna Fail government of Albert Reynolds 12 years ago?

 Rory Connor
30 December 2006


Reynolds v Times Newspapers Ltd
Reynolds v Times Newspapers Ltd and others
[1998] 3 WLR 862, [1998] 3 All ER 961, [1998] EMLR 723
Court of Appeal (Civil Division)

Lord Bingham of Cornhill C.J., Hirst and Robert Walker L.JJ.

EXTRACT re Duggan Case

At this point it is appropriate to set out the basic facts of the Duggan case, while emphasising that the timing of their coming to the knowledge of different people, and the significance which different people attached (or should have attached) to them, were matters of acute controversy at the heart of the libel action. Section 50(2)(bbb) of the Extradition Act 1965 as amended provided that the High Court or the minister might direct the release of a person detained with a view to extradition where --
'by reason of the lapse of time since the commission of the offence specified in the warrant or the conviction of the person named or described therein of that offence and other exceptional circumstances, it would, having regard to all the circumstances, be unjust, oppressive or invidious to deliver him up . . .'

The Duggan case concerned a request for the extradition of Mr John Duggan to England on charges of indecent assault on a male person and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Mr Duggan was described in the Dail as an ex-monk but that was, it seems, incorrect. [!!]

Draft warrants prepared by the West Mercia Crown Prosecution Service were received by the Chief State Solicitor's office in Dublin in March 1990. The two alleged offences of indecent assault were stated to have taken place at dates not earlier than 1 August 1986 and 9 June 1988. The Chief State Solicitor identified certain defects in the draft warrants. The file was received in the Attorney General's office on 12 April 1990 and directions were given and communicated to the West Mercia CPS in July and August 1990 (that is, before Mr Whelehan became Attorney General).

Then on 4 February 1992 the case was raised again in a fax from the English Attorney General's office, which itself raised the issue of delay. On 13 February 1992 a civil servant in the Irish Attorney General's office prepared a submission to the effect that neither the lapse of time nor any other exceptional circumstances would render the extradition of Mr Duggan unjust, oppressive or invidious. The written submission referred expressly to s 50(2)(bbb). Mr Whelehan (who had then been Attorney General for about six months) approved the memorandum on the same day. The actual warrants then reached the Attorney General's office on 2 March 1992, and were dealt with by the civil servant and Mr Whelehan within a day. Mr Duggan was extradited to England and the file was put away in the registry, which did not at that time have any retrieval system by reference to subject matter.

The lapse of time in the Smyth case was longer than in the Duggan case. Father Smyth was charged with offences on unknown dates between March 1964 and March 1971, and with further offences between December 1982 and December 1988. The Smyth file was dealt with by a different (and more senior) civil servant in the Attorney General's office, Mr Matthew Russell, who explained his lack of urgency to Mr Whelehan (in the words of the latter's memorandum of 9 November 1994):

'In the first place the nine alleged offences had been committed between 29 and 5 years before, against four children in the same extended family. The facts supplied by the United Kingdom authorities were that the offences had ceased some 22 years, 17 years, 8 years and 6 years respectively before the request. There was nothing to suggest that offences were continuing, or were likely to continue, either here or in Northern Ireland.'