Danny Foley, a nightclub bouncer in Listowel, Co Kerry, sexually assaulted a 22-year-old girl last year, and was yesterday sentenced to seven years in prison.
So far so good, you might be thinking, until you discover that up to fifty people, predominantly middle-aged and elderly men, formed a single-file line and approached Foley one at a time to sympathise with him as he stood in the dock. They shook his hand and some of them embraced him.
To do this, they had to pass within a couple of feet of his young victim.
A priest called Seán Sheehy provided character evidence that Foley was always respectful of women and didn’t have an abusive bone in his body.
Now ponder that for a minute. This girl was found half-naked by police, semi-conscious and injured, yet it doesn’t occur to Seán Sheehy that Danny Foley might be in any way disrespectful or abusive towards women.
The judge told Sheehy, who was among those lining up to shake hands with Foley, that his evidence was lies. When asked by a reporter if he should have shaken the girl’s hand, the priest replied It didn’t even occur to me.
It helps not one jot that the bishop of Kerry has disowned Sheehy’s actions. I wish to offer my sympathy to the victim, said Bill Murphy, and to apologise to her on my own behalf and on behalf of the Diocese of Kerry.
I pay tribute to her courage. I hope what has happened will not undermine the progress that has been made in bringing perpetrators of sexual abuse to justice.
Too late. The damage is done and Sheehy’s behaviour has already undermined progress.
This Christian priest might as well have spat in the girl’s face.
Think about that, and while you’re at it, think about the logistics of transporting fifty people from Listowel to Tralee where the Circuit Court sits, organising them outside the court and marshalling them so that they approach the defendant one at a time, while at the same time sneering at the victim who sits virtually alone in the court.
Who arranged that? Did they all go in a bus? Did they meet up for a drink and a laugh afterwards? What did they say about the assault victim? Did they make jokes? Sexual innuendo? Probably not. After all, they were in the company of a holy priest.
Think about the warped mentality that consciously set about blackening this girl’s name to justify the assault. Think about the perverted outlook on life that could have orchestrated a whispering campaign in North Kerry to make this girl into the guilty party for complaining of the assault instead of keeping quiet about it. Think about the bar staff in Listowel who refuse to serve this girl in their pubs. Think about the citizens of that little town who pass snide comments in the street.
Don’t they have any daughters of their own?
Don’t they have any moral values?
It isn’t just the men. I heard a woman of mature years trying to explain on a radio phone-in that we didn’t have all the facts about the case, which I presume is more of the same filthy innuendo, code for saying the dirty slut deserved it.
You see, in this sainted little isle, even when you’re a convicted sex offender like Danny Foley, it isn’t really your fault that the bitch fought back.
Finally, think about the message this sends out to thugs like Foley who think they have the right to assault and mistreat other people, and especially women.
Around fifteen years ago in Duagh, Co Kerry, not too far from Listowel, an individual coincidentally also named Sheehy, raped a woman, Caroline Casey, who was giving him a lift.
A retired community college principal provided a character reference for Sheehy and so did did the parish priest as well as a local vet. Despite this, Sheehy was convicted by the jury and sentenced to seven years in jail.
Locals in the village boycotted Caroline Casey and her husband, and a vicious campaign of whispering sprang up, making the victim’s life a hell of isolation and intimidation.
The message is clear.
In our towns of the squinting windows, it’s better to shut up and take it.
And then people wonder how all that clerical child abuse could have happened without anybody opening their mouth.
Well here you have the answer staring you in the face.
The following email has been sent to every bishop in the country. If any replies come back, I’ll report them. Don’t hold your breath.
Following Sean Sheehy’s act of solidarity with a convicted sex offender in Listowel, coming so soon after the publication of the Murphy report and the Ryan report, it seems plain that Catholic clerics have no sense of empathy with women or children, and an impaired understanding of right and wrong.
Therefore, as a group with little to offer in the way of moral example, does it not now make sense for the Catholic hierarchy to commit a significant act of atonement and collectively step down from their role in education?
So far, one reply has been received, from the diocese of Kerry:
Fr Sheehy is a retired priest from an American Diocese who is currently covering for an ill priest in the Diocese of Kerry. Bishop Murphy of Kerry issued a robust statement yesterday evening, carried on today’s Irish Times, rejecting Fr. Sheehy’s actions and supporting the victim. I gather that the statement of Bishop Murphy was welcomed as ‘strong’ by the Kerry Rape Crisis Centre.
UPDATE 18th December
The bishop sacked Seán Sheehy today.