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Historical Abuse Inquiry: Irish police ‘aware’ of Smyth abuse in 1970s

June 28, 2015 ·  By Northern Island for www.bbc.com

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Fr Brendan Smyth was convicted of over 100 indecent assaults against children across Ireland

Police in Dublin were aware of the abuse by a notorious paedophile priest as far back as the early 1970’s, an inquiry has heard.

Northern Ireland’s Historical Abuse Inquiry has been examining the activities of Fr Brendan Smyth.

New evidence has shown that police were aware of his activities more than 20 years before he was convicted.

Smyth was at the centre of one of the first clerical child sex abuse scandals to rock the Catholic church in Ireland.

The inquiry heard on Monday that Smyth admitted he could have abused hundreds of children.

He was convicted in the 1990s of more than 100 indecent assaults against children, in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, over a 40-year period.

He died in prison in 1997 after a heart attack.

Diagnosis

For years, authorities had been trying to get access to documents regarding Smyth held by St Patrick’s psychiatric hospital in Dublin.

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The inquiry heard that Smyth’s notoriety extended across the world

It had been treating Smyth in 1973.

On Wednesday, the documents were presented to the inquiry, revealing that he was initially being treated for “homosexual problems”.

He was later diagnosed as “suffering from paedophilia”, and gardaí (Irish police) were aware of that diagnosis.

Throughout the Smyth scandal and the continuing inquiry, the widely-held view has been that only the church had knowledge of the priest’s offending and that it had covered it up.

The inquiry also heard that Smyth had threatened to punch another cleric when he was warned to stay away from altar boys.

Fr William Fitzgerald, an Australian priest who served with Smyth at Kilnacrott Abbey in County Cavan during the late 1980s, described him as a scary individual whose notoriety extended across the world.

Candy

Fr Fitzgerald said: “I told him: ‘In view of the rumours about you and your sexual activities with children, you will not be anywhere near these kids under my watch.’

“He said: ‘I’ll knock your head off.’

“I said: ‘Oh, make my day, you bastard. I’ll knock your head clean off.'”

Apologising to the victims, Fr Fitzgerald said efforts to stop Smyth had been “pathetic”.

Fr Fitzgerald said the boot of his car was always filled with “candy”.

“That was his tool in dealing with the children,” he said.

The inquiry, led by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart, is examining child abuse allegations in church, state and voluntary children’s residential institutions dating back to 1922.

On Thursday, the inquiry is expected to hear evidence from retired Cardinal Seán Brady on his involvement in a church examination of Fr Smyth in 1975.

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