High Court reserves decision on cases by Smyth victims

Wednesday 29 January 2014 18.56
Three victims of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth are taking legal action against a bishop
Three victims of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth are taking legal action against a bishop

The High Court has reserved its decision on an application by a Catholic bishop to dismiss cases being taken against him by three victims of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.

The Bishop of Kilmore, Leo O'Reilly, is being sued as successor to the previous bishop, Francis McKiernan.

The victims allege the Bishop of Kilmore, and the now Cardinal Sean Brady, did not take steps to prevent Smyth from abusing children in the 1970s and 1980s.

They allege that they were negligent because they did not report complaints made about Smyth in interviews conducted with two young boys in 1975.

One of the boys identified one of those taking the case as a victim of the priest during these interviews. 

However, no action was taken to prevent further abuse and the boys were sworn to secrecy.

Lawyers for Bishop O'Reilly say the man who was named in the interviews cannot continue this action as he received a settlement from Smyth's order, the Norbertines, in 1998.

They say he accepted the settlement of £25,000 sterling, as a full settlement of all claims in relation to Smyth.

They say he sued Cardinal Cahal Daly in the original proceedings in Northern Ireland, as primate of All Ireland and representative of the bishops.

Lawyer Rossa Fanning said the bishop did not wish to minimise the suffering of the victims.

He said this was a legal issue and if the court allowed this case to be taken after a settlement had been agreed, it would have implications for all such settlements.

Mr Fanning said the diocese had very limited resources and there were many other cases facing the diocese.

Lawyers for the victims say the fact that one of the boys interviewed in 1975 had disclosed that the man involved in this case was also being abused by Smyth was "actively concealed" in the court proceedings in the 1990s.

Neither his parents nor the civil authorities were informed and the boys interviewed were sworn to secrecy.

The lawyers say if they had known that information they would not have settled the case for such an amount.

They also said the earlier settlement was a partial settlement.

High Court President Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said he would have to decide on this preliminary issue.

He said he would have to decide if the parties who were sued in 1996 were the same as the parties now being sued.

Mr Justice Kearns said he would have to decide if the cause of action was the same in both cases.