Irish church in row over cash for abuse victim

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The Independent Online
ALAN MURDOCH

Dublin

The Irish Catholic Church faced new claims of covering up sex abuse by members of its clergy with the revelation yesterday that IRpounds 50,000 in damages had been paid to a former Dublin altar boy who alleged he was the victim of a series of extreme sexual assaults between the ages of nine and 11.

The damages, plus IRpounds 6,000 in costs, were paid following a 1993 claim by Alan O'Sullivan, now a 33-year-old architectural draughtsman from the Navan Road area of north Dublin.

It was alleged that in the early Seventies he suffered a series of assaults including buggery, rape, extreme sexual perversion and violent sexual abuse inflicted by a former curate, Fr Patrick Hughes.

During one assault in the priest's house he allegedly strangled and almost choked the boy. When Mr O'Sullivan finally told his parents, his father approached church authorities who assured him the matter would be dealt with.

It is understood the priest was psychologically assessed by a consultant, but was judged fit to continue his ministry. Now in his seventies, Fr Hughes has been living in a Redemptorist community in Dublin since 1993.

When the settlement was arranged, lawyers for the church maintained it had no "vicarious liability".

The latest case casts further doubt on the account given by the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Desmond Connell, in an interview on Monday. Then, referring to the case of Fr Charles Payne who was loaned IRpounds 27,500 by the church to pay a settlement of a civil sex abuse claim, Dr Connell said: "I had no precedent to guide me whatever. This had never come up before. Moreover, it hasn't come up since."

The newly-appointed Jesuit spokesman for the Dublin Archdiocese, Fr John Dardis, claimed yesterday that Dr Connell had been speaking solely about the provision of a loan from the diocese. This was borne out, he said, by the fact that Fr Hughes had had to pay his own settlement.

However, Mr O'Sullivan's solicitor, Julian Deale, highlighted the unusual speed of the settlement in 1993. His understanding was that he was dealing with the church itself, and had only come into contact with Fr Hughes' solicitors at a late stage in negotiations.

In an interview in June 1993, Dr Connell said he had dealt with "three or four" allegations of sex abuse against priests in his diocese, none of which went to court, but declined to give any further details.

Fr Dardis said it was likely more cases of similar sex abuse would now come to light, given the US experience where initial revelations encouraged more victims to come forward. "I would expect quite frankly that there would be more allegations made. Based on experience in the US we're not through this yet. There will most likely be more."

According to the Irish Times, Mr O'Sullivan complained about the assaults to gardai in Cabra, north Dublin, who said later that the Director of Public Prosecutions had decided against proceedings.

In October the failure of the Attorney General's office to process a child sex abuse extradition application in the case of paedophile priest Fr Brendan Smyth led to the fall of the last Irish coalition. In a reorganisation of the office soon after, the senior legal assistant took early retirement.

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