DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland’s deputy prime minister said on Thursday he thought the head of the Irish Catholic Church should resign after a TV documentary reported the cleric had failed to warn parents their children were being sexually abused by a priest in 1975.
A BBC documentary broadcast on Tuesday said that Cardinal Sean Brady was given the names and addresses of children being abused by notorious pedophile Brendan Smyth during a Church investigation but had failed to act to ensure their safety.
“It is my own personal view that anybody who did not deal with the scale of the abuse that we have seen in this case should not hold a position of authority,” Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore told parliament, when asked about Brady’s response to the BBC program.
Gilmore described the revelations as “another horrific episode of failure by senior members of the Catholic Church to protect children”, adding his voice to calls by groups representing victims of abuse for Brady to stand down.
Two of the victims whose identities were made known to Brady at the time were subjected to abuse long after the Church inquiry was completed and Smyth continued to abuse other young victims for more than 15 years afterwards.
The sister and four cousins of one of the victims were also abused for several years after the investigation.
However, Brady said the documentary was seriously misleading, saying it had exaggerated his role in the inquiry and that he did not see it as a resigning matter.
In a statement, he said he was only a note-taker in the investigation and not the “designated person” responsible for reporting the matter to the civil authorities.
He had trusted his superiors to deal with the matter, he added, saying the Church did not fully understand the impact of the abuse at the time.
Brady last year agreed to a legal settlement over his role in administering an oath of secrecy to one of the teenage victims during the 1975 investigation.
A claim the boy’s father had been allowed to attend an interview at the time was untrue, the BBC documentary said. None of the parents’ of other abuse victims named by the boy had been warned either, it said.
The Church in predominantly Catholic Ireland has been rocked by a series of reports of child sex abuse stretching back decades and of church leaders’ complicity in covering them up.
Ireland announced last year it would close its embassy to the Vatican, one of the Catholic country’s oldest missions, after relations hit an all-time low over the Church’s handling of sex abuse cases.
Hundreds of cases of priests sexually and physically abusing youths have come to light in Europe and the United States in recent decades as new disclosures have encouraged long-silent victims to go public with their complaints.
One of Ireland’s most notorious pedophiles, Smyth died in 1997, just one month into a 12-year sentence after pleading guilty to 74 charges of indecent and sexual abuse of boys and girls for more than 30 years.
Sam Adair, one of Smyth’s victims who was interviewed by Brady in 1975, called on the Cardinal to resign.
“He did not keep these children from this devil in a dog’s collar,” he said in an interview with state broadcaster RTE.
Editing by Andrew Osborn