Timeline of Ireland's Catholic abuse scandals

Key steps in Ireland's struggle to confront child abuse committed by Catholic officials.



June 1994: Irish Catholic priest Brendan Smyth pleads guilty in Northern Ireland to 17 counts of assaulting five girls and two boys in Belfast. His order, the Norbertines, spent decades shuttling him among Irish and American parishes and harboring him from British arrest.

November 1994: Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds resigns and his government collapses amid claims his attorney general colluded with church authorities to delay the British extradition demand for Smyth.

July 1995: Former altar boy Andrew Madden becomes first in Ireland to speak publicly about abuse by a priest, says Dublin archdiocese paid him €35,000 ($45,000) to keep quiet. Case spurs hundreds of alleged victims to pursue civil lawsuits against church authorities.

January 1996: Irish Catholic leaders tells bishops to report "without delay" all suspected sex abuse cases to police. Some bishops don't.

July 1997: After serving prison term, Smyth is extradited to Ireland and pleads guilty to 74 counts of sexually abusing 20 boys and girls between 1958 and 1993. Dies of a heart attack in prison one month into 12-year sentence.

January 1998: Payne is convicted in Dublin on 14 counts of sexually abusing eight boys aged 11 to 14. Serves four years in prison.

March 1999: Rev. Sean Fortune commits suicide in prison while awaiting trial on 66 charges of molesting and raping boys in Ferns diocese. One victim, Colm O'Gorman, launches support group One in Four.

April 1999: Groundbreaking documentary series "States of Fear" exposes abuse of children in church-run workhouses, reformatories and orphanages since the 1940s.

May 1999: Prime Minister Bertie Ahern issues "long overdue apology" to all those abused in church-run institutions.

May 2000: Ireland authorizes Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse under direction of High Court Justice Mary Laffoy.

April 2002: Ferns Bishop Brendan Comiskey becomes first — and only — Irish church figure to resign because of a failure to stop pedophile priests.

December 2002: Ireland establishes board to pay compensation to people abused in church-run institutions. Claimants must renounce their right to sue.

September 2003: Laffoy resigns, says Ireland's Education Department is blocking the probe.

April 2004: Vatican diplomat Diarmuid Martin becomes Dublin archbishop. Pledges full cooperation with police in exposing past cover-ups of abuse.

October 2005: Probe finds church, police and state authorities did too little to stop sexual abuse of hundreds of children by 21 priests in Ferns.

December 2005: Redress Board says more than 14,000 people filed claims for compensation for reported childhood abuse in church-run institutions.

December 2008: Board says it has paid nearly 12,000 abuse victims an average of €64,230 ($84,000) each, about 2,000 claims remain.

May 20, 2009: Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse unveils 2,575-page report into thousands of child abuse cases in Catholic-run institutions beginning in the 1930s until the last institutions closed in the 1990s.

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