1 in 4 founder settles High Court action

Wednesday 09 April 2003 17.55

The founder of the One in Four organisation, Colm O'Gorman, has settled his action for negligence against the Diocese of Ferns. Mr O'Gorman has said the settlement was for €300,000.

This morning the High Court was told that the action had been settled and a statement was read on behalf of the Apostolic Administrator of Ferns, Dr Eamon Walsh.

In the statement, the Bishop acknowledged and sincerely regretted the distress, trauma and hurt caused to Mr O'Gorman by the acts of sexual abuse on him by the late Fr Sean Fortune.

The Bishop also acknowledged the failure of the bishop at the time to recognise and act on the threat posed by the late Fr Fortune to Mr O'Gorman.

Colm O'Gorman received an unreserved apology.

Mr O'Gorman was sexually abused by the late Fr Sean Fortune between 1981 and 1983.

He sued the diocese of Ferns for negligence claiming that the then Bishop, Donal Herlihy, knew at that time that Fr Fortune posed a risk to him.

After the High Court was told that settlement terms had been agreed with Bishop Walsh, Mr O'Gorman - who is now 36 - spoke to journalists at the Dublin headquarters of his One in Four Organization which works for survivors of sexual abuse.

He said that today, for the very first time, the Catholic Church had acknowledged what many Irish people had believed for a number of years: that the Church authorities were negligent in how they handled and responded to cases of clerical sexual abuse.

He hoped the admission would mark an end to what he called 'the adversial and legalistic approach by church authorities' to victims.

He also criticised the Papal Nuncio for forcing him to drop his action against the Vatican by claiming diplomatic immunity.

He accused Archbishop Lazzarotto of refusing to answer questions about what the Vatican knew about the abuse perpetrated by Fr Fortune - who took his own life four years ago as he was about to face criminal charges.

Earlier this year, Dublin man Mervyn Rundle received over €300,000 and an apology from Cardinal Desmond Connell. He was sexually abused by Fr Thomas Naughton, a curate in Donnycarney in the mid-1980s.

Statement from Dr Eamon Walsh

This is the statement from Dr Eamon Walsh, read out in court by counsel for Mr O'Gorman:

'The matter has been settled on terms that Bishop Eamon Walsh as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Ferns, admits negligence and agrees to pay Colm O'Gorman compensation and costs.

'He acknowledges and sincerely regrets the distress, trauma and hurt caused to Colm O'Gorman by virtue of the acts of sexual abuse perpetrated on him between 1981 and 1983 by the late Fr Sean Fortune.

'He further acknowledges the failure of the Bishop at the time to recognise and act on the threat posed by the late Fr Fortune to Colm O'Gorman. Bishop Walsh wishes to apologise unreservedly to Colm O'Gorman for these failures and for the harm which he suffered in consequence.'