posted on Jul, 27 2009 @ 03:28 AM
Senator Joe O’Toole: I will tell the Minister how that applies to other countries. There has been much talk recently about Canada; I made reference
to it myself this morning. Some years ago Canada set up an inquiry like the Ryan inquiry, and like the Ryan inquiry a senior judge from the superior
courts was appointed to hear all the evidence. That judge was appointed but his appointment was objected to. He was removed from the commission of
inquiry because he was a member of the Knights of St. Columbanus.
Can somebody tell me why we as politicians — the Minister, all our colleagues, the Cathaoirleach and myself — have to disclose all that we do in
terms of our backgrounds etc.? We have to sign this form and that form. We have to declare an interest if we speak on something here. We have a
Government of whatever colour which is committed to openness, transparency and all that goes with that but at the same time secret organisations such
as the Knights of St. Columbanus and Opus Dei can do what they want.
I took the trouble to meet with Opus Dei years ago and it is written into their requirements that they should try to impose the beliefs of the
organisation on their jobs. I raised the issue here years ago that people being appointed to jobs of sensitivity in areas like the Attorney
General’s office and others should be asked the question about membership. I still believe that.
I do not believe we did this deal in 2002 without the involvement of the Knights of St. Columbanus. I heard the former Minister, Deputy Michael Woods,
say during the week that he is not a member of the Knights of St. Columbanus or Opus Dei. I believe that anybody involved in that deal should be asked
that question. Everybody appointed to a senior position in the State should be asked that question.
There is no place in an open, transparent democracy for people who have other agendas. The rest of us must stand up and declare an interest. I had to
declare an interest earlier. This afternoon I declared an interest in terms of my INTO background and other matters. It is only right that we should
do that to ensure that people know where we are coming from but that does not apply to these people.
I will give the House an example of the way that works. There is a priest in the west, Fr. Kevin Hegarty, who is a curate in a tiny parish as far west
as one can go beyond Belmullet. He is a highly erudite, intelligent man with a huge amount to offer. He was editor of a church magazine, Intercom, in
the 1990s. He wanted to develop a number of debates at that time, one of which was a debate too far. He wanted a debate on clerical child abuse. For
his troubles, he was sacked by Bishop Brendan Comiskey, a man who was to hit the headlines very shortly after that. Bishop Brendan Comiskey was also
selected by the Knights of St. Columbanus when they decided to show a more public face to the media. He was a media friendly bishop, and he was their
chaplain or whatever.
He then went to Ferns where he dealt with child abuse cases. Before he went to Ferns, to divert slightly, he tried to instigate a boycott of the Irish
Press newspapers on the grounds that they were committing blasphemy, a subject which is very topical at the moment. What was the blasphemy? Madonna
the singer was expecting a child and a columnist made some comment about that and the Madonna and child icon precious to Christianity. It was a dumb,
inappropriate comment but hardly one that should have led to that kind of action but that is what happened in that case.
The same man went to Wexford where he was in charge of all the problems in Monageer. When the Wexford People and the Wicklow People newspapers
honestly and openly reported the conviction of a priest there for paedophile activity, he and the Knights of St. Columbanus attempted to boycott the
People newspapers. That is on the record. There was also the horrible incident when there was a complaint and an investigation regarding a priest in
Monageer having sexually assaulted a child. The priest insisted on doing the First Communion or Confirmation — I cannot remember which — two weeks
later. The people appealed to Bishop Cumiskey to stop the priest doing so, but he insisted. This man was up on the altar for the event. It is similar
to what Mr. Michael O’Brien described on television during “Questions and Answers”. Mr. O’Brien spoke about being assaulted and raped on one
night and being offered the sacred host the following morning by the same person. The same issue was involved for the child in Monageer.
That incident was investigated by the local Garda sergeant, who did a very good job. His chief superintendent insisted on getting the files and
nothing else happened. Too much time had passed by the time people figured out why the Director of Public Prosecutions had done nothing about it. As a
result, the then Garda Commissioner appointed an outside chief superintendent to investigate the matter. He came to the conclusion that the local
investigation had been well done but the matter had not been properly brought to a conclusion. The files were lost. The files were in the gift of the
chief superintendent who was a senior Knight of St. Columbanus in the area. He retired, received his Benemerenti medal from the Pope and took his
secrets to the grave. The priest was never prosecuted and the matter was never brought to a conclusion.