Murphy Report Chapter on Rapist Priest Tony Walsh

Clerical cover-up of child abuser

This is the redacted Chapter 19 of the Murphy Report which was published today.  It concerns rapist priest, Tony Walsh, who was convicted and jailed last week.

(I have replaced the pseudonym Fr Jovito with Walsh’s own name).

I’ll have more to say about this in further posts, but for now, here it is.  Read it and absorb for yourself the horror of what Walsh was up to and the disgraceful way the Catholic authorities facilitated his sexual abuse of children.

This chapter brings shame and disgrace on the bishops and priests of the Dublin Archdiocese, who knew in 1978 that Walsh was a rapist and who failed to prevent him from raping children for a further 17 years.

Murphy reports HERE

Previous Bock post HERE


Chapter 19    Fr Tony Walsh

1    Introduction

19.1 In 1995 Archbishop Connell wrote that Fr Walsh  “is a confirmed  paedophile.  He was ordained in 1978, but even before his ordination –  as it subsequently appeared –  he was engaged in paedophiliac  activities with minors”.

19.2 Fr Walsh is probably the most notorious child sexual abuser to have  come to the attention of the Commission.  The Commission is aware of more  than 40 named people who have complained of child sexual abuse by him.   He has admitted to abusing many others; while he may not use the term ‘child  sexual abuse’, he has admitted to using children for sexual gratification once  a fortnight over an eight-year period.   That constitutes child sexual abuse.   He claims he did not abuse after that eight year period but the evidence  suggests that he continued in a similar pattern.  His pattern of behaviour is  such that it is likely that he has abused hundreds of children.  He was  convicted in respect of seven complainants.   Civil settlements have been  reached with 21 complainants.  He was laicised in 1995 and is currently living  in Dublin.

19.3 Fr Walsh was born in 1954.  He was ordained in 1978.  The earliest  allegations against him predate his ordination.  He himself has admitted that  he abused before he was ordained but most of the complaints about his  activities prior to 1978 did not surface until many years later.  It is known that  during his time as a seminarian he had a key to the house of another well  known abuser, Fr Noel Reynolds (see Chapter 35), and it is alleged that some  of the abuse took place in that house.  While he was in Clonliffe College, he  organised visits by groups of altar boys to Clonliffe and it is alleged that he  abused some of them on the seminary premises.

19.4 During his time as a priest he was a member of a singing group who  performed in what was known as the ‘Holy Show’.  He was a well-known Elvis  Presley impersonator.   A number of complaints against him relate to his  activities at these performances.

First complaint, 1978

19.5 Fr Walsh’s first appointment was to Ballyfermot parish in July 1978.   Two days after his appointment a complaint was received at Archbishop’s  House that he had sexually abused an eight-year-old boy.  The abuse was  alleged to have taken place within the previous month at the house of the  aforementioned Fr Noel Reynolds.   The parents of the boy concerned  informed a priest about the alleged abuse.  He in turn spoke to Archbishop  Ryan’s secretary.  A note on the file to the Archbishop in July 1978 refers to a  “homosexual incident involving a young lad … and a newly ordained Dublin  diocesan priest”.  The Archbishop asked a vicar general, Monsignor Glennon,  to investigate the matter.

19.6 It was noted by the priest to whom the complaint was made that “the  parents are most responsible people and there is no danger of publicity”.  The  Archdiocese made no response to the boy’s parents nor, indeed, to the priest  to whom the complaint was made.

19.7 Fr Walsh was interviewed by Monsignor Glennon.   In his note of this  meeting, Monsignor Glennon described the alleged abuse as involving:  “osculae, amplexus and tactus immodesti”.    This translates as kisses,  embraces and shameless touching.

19.8 Fr Walsh categorically denied any abuse and stated that the boy  concerned had been merely sitting on his knee.  The vicar general noted that  “Fr [Walsh] impressed me as telling the truth.”   Nothing further was done.

Next complaint, 1979

19.9 The next complaint was made by the mother of a 14-year-old boy who  alleged that he was abused by Fr Walsh in Ballyfermot in 1978 and 1979.   The boy and his parents lived on the north side of Dublin.  The abuse ended  when he told his mother.  She promptly went to her parish priest who told her  that he would contact Archbishop’s House about the matter.  After some time  had elapsed and no further word had been received, the boy’s mother  contacted the parish priest of Ballyfermot, Canon Val Rogers, seeking some  action. The only action taken was that Fr Michael Cleary, who was also based  in Ballyfermot at the time, was sent to the boy’s house some time in early  1980 in order to educate him on issues of male sexuality.  The mother told the Commission that Fr Cleary did apologise.  There are no records available of  any communication between the boy’s family and the Archdiocese around this  time.   In 1985, Canon Rogers told Monsignor Stenson that matters were  “hushed up” at the time of the mother’s complaint.

19.10 In 2003, the parish priest to whom the mother initially reported was  interviewed by the Gardaí.  He remembered the complaint that was made.   He said he did not give the mother an undertaking to report to the  Archdiocese but he might have said that he would speak to a bishop about it.   He did not consider reporting to the Gardaí at the time.  He thought he had  spoken to Canon Rogers about it but was not fully sure about this.  He did not  report to the Archdiocese.

Concerns in the early 1980s

19.11 In 2003, when the Gardaí were investigating a number of complaints  against Fr Walsh, they were told by a former youth co-ordinator who later  became a priest, that he had complained to the chancellery of the  Archdiocese, sometime in the period 1980 – 1982, about Fr Walsh’s activities  with a number of young girls attending a summer camp.  The girls claimed he  had touched them and felt them.   There is no record of this complaint in the  archdiocesan files.   No action was taken.

Concerns and complaints, 1985

19.12 Fr Donal O’Doherty became parish priest of Ballyfermot in 1984.  He  subsequently stated that Archbishop Ryan did give him a veiled warning  about Fr Walsh without stating exactly what his concerns were.  This would  suggest that the Archbishop was either not entirely convinced by Monsignor  Glennon’s 1978 report or that he had heard subsequent reports which  concerned him.

19.13 By March 1985, at least seven priests of the Archdiocese were aware  of concerns about Fr Walsh’s behaviour.  At the request of Archbishop  McNamara, Monsignor Stenson spoke to these priests.   Monsignor Stenson  was not aware of the previous complaints prior to his inquiry.

19.14 Fr O’Doherty told Monsignor Stenson of a series of events which,  taken cumulatively, caused him alarm.   He noted that Fr Walsh was close to  the altar boys.  He said he had spoken to Bishop Donal Murray and they  agreed that if it occurred again he should act.  (It is not clear to what ‘it’  refers.)   It appeared that Fr Walsh was very involved with a particular altar  boy and that Fr O’Doherty had caught him behaving in what he described as  “preliminaries”.  Fr O’Doherty also noted that Fr Walsh, in the presence of  parents and other priests, had children on his knees when hearing their  confessions.

19.15 It was also noted that Fr Walsh had been in a relationship of sorts with  a young teenager.   Around this time, the mother involved in the 1979  complaint had been in touch with another priest.  Monsignor Stenson spoke to  this other priest and a number of other priests but concluded that no one with  whom he spoke could provide him with concrete evidence.  There was a lot of  “ill-informed gossip” and he felt he had to obtain concrete evidence from lay  people before moving further.

19.16 In April 1985, a couple complained to Monsignor Stenson that Fr  Walsh had interfered with their daughter. They claimed he had put his hands  up her clothes and was getting excited.

19.17 Around the same time, the parents of a 14-year-old boy told their local  priests that they were concerned about the frequent visits being made to their  son by Fr Walsh.  This was reported to Monsignor Stenson by a priest in a  north side parish.   Monsignor Stenson noted that the priest and the family “do  not know if there was anything more to it than that”.  Nevertheless Monsignor  Stenson noted on the file: “Given the track record such behaviour was  suspicious and very imprudent”.

Admissions, 1985

19.18 Later in April 1985, Monsignor Stenson met Fr Walsh.  According to  Monsignor Stenson’s memo of the meeting, Fr Walsh “denied nothing”.   Fr  Walsh admitted his involvement with the young boy in Ballyfermot and he also  admitted to another incident with a young boy in Wicklow.   The Archdiocese  had no prior knowledge of the boy in Wicklow.  He did not challenge the  allegation in respect of the young girl.  Monsignor Stenson did not know the  name of the boy in the north-side parish and made it clear that he was not  accusing Fr Walsh of anything in respect of this boy.  Monsignor Stenson warned Fr Walsh about possible dangerous situations and noted that he was  agreeable to going to a psychiatrist.  Fr Walsh was grateful that he had been  given a second chance.  Archbishop McNamara was brought up to date with  Fr Walsh’s situation in April 1985.


19.19 Monsignor Stenson recommended that Fr Walsh approach a  psychiatrist with a view to addressing “his problem”.   Fr Walsh attended the  psychiatrist on two occasions.  In June 1985, the psychiatrist told Monsignor  Stenson that Fr Walsh was amenable to treatment and that there were three  treatment alternatives: medication,  electric shock therapy and what was  referred to as the “re-orientation method to channel the drive appropriately”.    Fr Walsh had elected for the third option as the “lesser of the evils”.  The  psychiatrist was “‘cautiously optimistic’ that this could be successful given the  fact that Fr [Walsh] had not the normal sexual outlets available to him in virtue  of his priesthood”.

Further complaint, October 1985

19.20 In October 1985, a parent complained to Fr O’Doherty, the parish  priest in Ballyfermot, that Fr Walsh had indecently assaulted a young girl.  Fr  O’Doherty reported this to Bishop O’Mahony who, in turn, told Monsignor  Stenson.   The psychiatrist was informed.   Fr Walsh denied this allegation.

19.21 No further inquiries were made.  There is no evidence that any new  treatment was considered.  Fr Walsh was removed from Ballyfermot and  appointed to Westland Row.   The Archbishop’s letter appointing him states: “I  take this opportunity to thank you for your dedicated work in Ballyfermot”.   While this is the standard formula in such appointments, it is, nevertheless,  astonishing that it could be used in the light of Fr Walsh’s history in  Ballyfermot.  Since he left Ballyfermot in 1985, numerous complainants have  come forward alleging abuse by Fr Walsh while he was there.

19.22 In 2002, the housekeeper in Fr Walsh’s house in Ballyfermot told the  Gardaí that there were always young children in the house and that on one  occasion she was met by two young boys coming out of Fr Walsh’s bedroom.   She said that she told another priest who lived in the house of her concerns,  but he did not say anything in response.   On another occasion she recalled Fr Michael Cleary breaking into Fr Walsh’s room and having an argument with  him, but she did not know what that argument was about.

Westland Row, 1986

19.23 Fr Walsh took up his appointment in Westland Row in February 1986.   In 1997, Monsignor Stenson recorded his memory of the circumstances  surrounding this appointment:  “My impression was that by moving him to Westland Row he would be  in a more restricted situation insofar as he would be resident in a  house with a number of other priests. I recall a sense of urgency in  moving him to a safer place, but I think it is true to say that we had no  idea of the enormity of his problems. As Chancellor, but working  almost full-time in the Marriage Tribunal at that time, I would not have  been involved in the making of appointments. I presume, however,  that the information that I would have occasionally fed into the  Bishops’ meetings would have influenced this move. In 1985/86, the  seriousness of  [Walsh’s] situation would not have been fully  appreciated.  [Walsh] was in psychiatric care. I do not recall if there  was any discussion with  [the psychiatrist] as to whether or not he  should be removed from ministry. I am not sure that even arose with  him. I presume that if it was thought his condition was such as to merit  that, we would have been alerted to it. Decisions on the manner of  appointment in those days were confined to the Archbishop,  Auxiliaries and Secretaries. The Chancellor was never involved in  appointments nor would he be consulted about them.    I do not know if Fr Des Dockery, the Administrator at Westland Row …  was made aware of  [Walsh’s] background before  [Walsh’s] arrival  there. I do not know if the risk factors were pointed out to him.”

19.24 At this stage, the Archdiocese was aware of four specific complaints  and a number of concerns.  Fr Walsh had admitted to the abuse of three  children.  It is difficult to understand how the seriousness of his situation was  not fully appreciated.  It is also difficult to conclude that the move was for any  purpose other than to avoid further scandal in Ballyfermot.  Fr Walsh was  removed from a parish in which the parish priest was aware of his activities  and was endeavouring to restrain him to a parish in which, it would appear,  the parish priest had no awareness of his proclivities.

19.25 Meanwhile, the mother of the 1979 complainant was in touch with  Monsignor Stenson because of her son’s continuing difficulties.  She was  being assisted by a priest who was a member of a religious order.  This priest  was clearly angry at the way the matter was being handled and he upbraided  the Archbishop for unsatisfactory responses to the mother’s letters and said:  “I think that  [the mother] may be forgiven if she regards this letter as an  attempt to sweep the matter under a carpet”.  He went on to say:  “Scandal  has been given and serious harm done to a young boy by a priest of the  Archdiocese.  If it is neither feasible nor desirable that this unfortunate priest  himself personally try to undo the damage he has done, is it not your duty as  his Superior to do so…”.

19.26 Monsignor Stenson met the mother who wanted help for her son and  wanted to ensure that Fr Walsh did not carry on his singing activities around  her area.  Monsignor Stenson noted: “I was impressed by this woman who is  obviously a concerned person and who is distressed by what has happened  to her son  […].  I would also be of the opinion that she was not out to cause  trouble or obtain money”.

19.27 Monsignor Stenson asked Fr Walsh to reconsider his involvement in  entertainment and public appearances in the media and to appear in live  performances only outside the area where this mother lived.  Fr Walsh said he  would give thought to these requests.  It would appear that he continued with  his singing career.   Bishop Kavanagh visited this family soon after this but  the Archdiocesan files do not have any documentary evidence of this.


19.28 In January 1987, the housekeeper to the administrator in Westland  Row alleged that she found items of her clothing in Fr Walsh’s room.  This  included underwear which, she alleged, had been “used”.  She had to burn  the clothing.  She also found condoms and syringes in his room.  She further  mentioned that a number of boys had slept overnight in his bed and a boy  from Balllyfermot had been visiting.  Monsignor Stenson noted that he had  “no doubt about her truthfulness”.   When these allegations were put to him,  Fr Walsh denied them and further said he did not know what condoms were  like.


19.29 In April 1988, a priest from Ballyfermot told Monsignor Stenson that a  woman alleged that her son was in the Westland Row presbytery with Fr  Walsh.

19.30 In May 1988, some parents complained to the Archbishop that Fr  Walsh had interfered with their daughter while sitting her on his knee at a  concert.   When this was put to him by Monsignor Stenson, Fr Walsh stated  he had been drunk and could not remember doing anything.  Monsignor  Stenson then asked him about the allegation that had been made in April.    Monsignor Stenson recorded that “for the first time he really opened up”.

19.31 While, with hindsight, it is obvious that Fr Walsh was minimising the  extent of the abuse, he did admit to abuse on a scale which was, by any  standards, staggering.  Monsignor Stenson recorded as follows:  “It began he claims as a Deacon.  He used help altar boys when they  visited Clonliffe as a student but he had no problems then. He  mentioned how he can go into a class of 30 children and treat 29 as  anyone would.  But one may cause the spark.  He admitted that over the eight years in Ballyfermot he was involved  with boys about once a fortnight. He believes they didn’t realise what  was happening. He would have them on his knee and reach a climax.  He denies ever doing anything “queer” with them. He seems to  recognise now that some were conscious that his behaviour was  wrong – hence the complaints.  [Walsh] was genuinely shocked by the contents of the file spreading  back over 10 years – not that he saw it all.  He believed that only Mick  Cleary and Val Rogers were aware of his problems.  He is willing to do whatever is required … I think  [Walsh] is aware for  the first time that he has to face the problem which he says is hard. He  would rather talk to the Archbishop but I suggested that he might write  out an account of his difficulties as he has perceived them.  … He asked me to apologise most sincerely to the parents tomorrow  night which I will do”.

19.32 Monsignor Stenson met the parents who had made the most recent  complaint.  He noted:  “[The father] said that he would not like  [Walsh] to suffer  because of one misdemeanour.  They pray for him and hope he can get help.  I was greatly impressed by this couple.  They were extremely kind and  concerned.  I did not indicate that there was a history of this behaviour”.

19.33 As requested by Monsignor Stenson, Fr Walsh wrote out an account of  his difficulties.  It is clearly not a full account as it deals only with instances of  abuse where complaints had been made.  It minimises the extent of the  abuse by using phrases like “sat on my lap” and “wrestled playfully on my bed  with him”.  It does, however, acknowledge that he had a sexual attraction to  the children.  He concluded this statement:  “I hate myself because of the hurt I have given to others but I also love  myself.  I know the good points I have.  I know I have done more good  in my 10 years of priesthood than bad.  I know of the love that my  family friends and parishioners have for me and the trust they place in  me. I have to change now.  I feel I would like to go to see those I have  hurt and tell them how truly sorry I am but I also realise that I might be  the last person some of these people want to see.  To change my  behaviour, probably with more help, might be the best way to say I am  sorry”.

19.34 In May 1988, ten years after the first complaint was made to the  Archdiocese, the Archbishop and the auxiliary bishops decided to send Fr  Walsh to Stroud for treatment.  He was removed from his position in Westland  Row in June 1988.

Stroud, 1988

19.35 Monsignor Stenson provided Stroud with a brief history of the  incidents he had investigated together with a copy of Fr Walsh’s statement.    Shortly after Fr Walsh’s arrival in Stroud, his therapist there reported to  Monsignor Stenson that Fr Walsh appeared to be more realistic about his  situation than other similar men.   A month later, Monsignor Stenson noted  the following comments made by a psychologist from Stroud: “[Walsh] is ‘extremely  compulsive – there have been an awful lot of children involved  he is a very  disturbed man  He is always going to be dangerous.  He could not be let near  schools, children, Confession without a grille etc…’”.

19.36 In its final report in November 1988, Stroud said that it considered that  Fr Walsh had been honest.  His therapists indicated, however, that under no  circumstances should he have any apostolate involving children.  He should  also receive further counselling. They were unsure whether he was an  alcoholic but felt that he should permanently abstain from drink. Shortly  afterwards his personal therapist rang Monsignor Stenson and stated that Fr  Walsh was the best patient he had seen.

19.37 When giving evidence to the Church penal process in 1992, Fr Walsh   said that he had learned in Stroud that the children whom he sat on his knee  were aware that he was getting sexual gratification.  He said this was the first  time he was aware of this and, therefore, of the harm he was causing.  He  claimed that he did not abuse again because he understood this.   Regrettably, the evidence clearly establishes that this is not so.

19.38 In November 1988, Fr Walsh signed a contract with the Archdiocese  which included the following provisions:  • “I will not be involved in any apostolate which involves children; • I understand that under no circumstances must I make any physical  contact with a child beyond a handshake in a public place;  • I will not be alone with a child;  • I understand that the priests with whom I am stationed will be aware of  the general nature of my difficulty and they will have the right to  discuss any areas of anxiety about the way I am relating, especially to  children; …  • I will not visit the Ballyfermot area under any circumstances.”

19.39 Fr Walsh was appointed to help the chaplain in a hospital for older  people and people with long term illnesses.  He nominated Fr Michael Cleary  as his spiritual director. A programme designed to keep him busy was worked  out and the priest in charge of him seemed to be adequately informed of his  inclinations.  His accommodation was in Halston Street and all the priests in  the presbytery there were informed of his background and advised that,  should there be the slightest suspicious circumstances arising, they should  contact named people in Archbishop’s House.


19.40 Fr Walsh started to receive counselling from a psychotherapist who  was also a priest.  Fr Walsh attended for a review in Stroud in early February  1989.   Stroud reported to the Archbishop: “so far, so good”, but in no way  indicated that Fr Walsh had been rehabilitated.  However, it is clear from the  report that Fr Walsh was chafing against the restraints contained in the  contract.  He did not like the rooms he was living in and wanted bigger ones.   He wanted to move back into parish work and, in particular, to be allowed to  visit Ballyfermot.  Stroud suggested that in the long term he might move to an  apostolate dealing with adults or students.

19.41 He returned to Stroud in May for a further review.   Again he was  extremely reluctant to contemplate anything other than parish work.   He was  described as being bored.  Stroud urged the Archbishop to give a “positive  signal” and some affirmation to Fr Walsh.  His priest therapist in Dublin posed  the question: “how likely [was he] to repeat his actions and constitute a risk to  children and, by extension to the church”.

19.42 His therapist accepted Fr Walsh’s assurances that he had never  directed physical violence at the children or attempted to penetrate them.  His  views on appropriate ministry for Fr Walsh were broadly similar to those of  Stroud.  The Archdiocese attempted to find a location which would reduce the  risk to children as much as possible.

19.43 In the meantime, Fr Walsh started to resume his old behaviour.    Parents complained to Monsignor Stenson that, at a fête at All Hallows in  August 1989, Fr Walsh brought their son to his car, sat him on his lap and  “kissed him on the forehead”.  Monsignor Stenson met Fr Walsh who admitted  to the encounter but denied any wrongdoing or that this behaviour was a  return to his pre-Stroud activity.  Subsequently, Fr Walsh went to this family to  apologise even though he had been told by Monsignor Stenson not to visit  this family’s home.

19.44 In September 1989, the Archbishop gave Fr Walsh permission to  solemnise a wedding in Ballyfermot.

Moves towards laicisation

19.45 Monsignor Stenson spoke to Stroud about the most recent  occurrence.   Stroud wrote to the Archbishop in September 1989 and pointed  out that the only untried treatment was medical treatment designed to lower  the male hormone level.  Stroud did not recommend further treatment there:   “However, having reviewed the file and given the matter some  thought I think , taking everything into account,  it would be wise  to raise the question of Fr  [Walsh] living as a layman out in the  world.  As long as he is in the priesthood he is going to have  privileged access to children because of the trust offered to  priests.  He has not shown yet that he can live in this privileged  position without abusing it, in spite of all he has been through.   Perhaps the time has come to call a halt to these possibilities”.

19.46 Around this time it was suggested to Monsignor Sheehy, who was the  judicial vicar, that he might take Fr Walsh into the Regional Marriage Tribunal.   Monsignor Sheehy declined on the basis that Fr Walsh’s limited intellectual  capacity might lead him to become frustrated.   He stated that a prison  chaplaincy might be more suitable.   He also stated that his own experience  with Stroud over many years had not generated a great deal of confidence.    It is not known what experience Monsignor Sheehy had with Stroud.  He did  have two known abusers working with him in the Regional Marriage Tribunal  at the time but neither had been to Stroud.

19.47 Fr Walsh returned to Stroud, which stated that he was completely on  the defensive.  On one level he realised his priesthood was on the line but on  another level he could not see how this could have occurred because of his  behaviour. Stroud recommended that he have a personal meeting with the  Archbishop so that the message could be firmly put across.

19.48 Further medical reports were received, in December 1989 and  January 1990, from the psychiatrist who had treated him in 1985 and from the  psychotherapist he had been attending since early 1989.  The psychiatrist’s  report was described by Monsignor Stenson as “anything but encouraging”.    The psychiatrist considered that Fr Walsh had made no real progress over the  four years 1985 – 1989.  He suggested a number of treatments including a  drug which would remove the sex drive completely.  The psychotherapist  concluded there were four options for Fr Walsh:

• voluntary laicisation;

• retirement to a monastery;

• the canonical penal process;

• some form of appointment with or without medication.

19.49 The psychotherapist took the view that forcing Fr Walsh to leave the  Church would not solve his problem and it might create more problems.  He  suggested that a middle ground appointment be sought somewhere between  a parish ministry and total isolation but with no involvement with children.   He  also felt that the Archbishop should meet personally with Fr Walsh to reinforce  the message.

19.50 Meanwhile it became known to the Archdiocese that Fr Walsh was  visiting scouts in a parish to which he was not assigned but in which he  seems to have been doing supply work.   Stroud drew the attention of the  Archdiocese to Fr Walsh’s plans to tour the UK with the ‘Holy Show’ in March  1990.  Monsignor Stenson told Fr Walsh he would need Archbishop Connell’s  permission to go on this tour.  The Archbishop refused permission.

19.51 In April 1990, Archbishop Connell and Monsignor Stenson met Fr  Walsh and told him the only options available to him were voluntary laicisation  or dismissal.   He was given until 1 May to make a decision.  The Archbishop  formally ended Fr Walsh’s public ministry but he was allowed to say mass in  private.

Leave of absence May 1990

19.52 Fr Walsh contacted Monsignor Sheehy who intervened on his behalf  with Archbishop Connell.   Monsignor Sheehy warned the Archbishop of the  “canonical minefield” into which he would be stepping if he pursued the  course of dismissal.  He also asked the Archbishop not to show his letter to  the chancellor, Monsignor Stenson.  There was further correspondence  between the Archbishop and Fr Walsh and between the Archbishop and  Monsignor Sheehy.   Monsignor Sheehy spoke to Canon Rogers and Fr  Cleary and was satisfied that they fully understood the problem and would  use their influence to persuade Fr Walsh to voluntarily apply for laicisation.  It  is clear that there were differing opinions among the bishops and others in  Archbishop’s House about how to deal with Fr Walsh.  Monsignor Sheehy  described one meeting in August as:  “probably the most depressing meeting that I have ever attended.      There was not a single word, from anyone, about the fact that we are  dealing with a disordered person. The whole thrust was: ‘how best can  we get rid of him?’ … To crown my depression, Bishop Walsh made  the outrageous suggestion that the Archbishop should inform the civil  authorities about Fr [Walsh’s] homosexual orientation”.  Bishop Eamonn Walsh told the Commission that his concern related to Fr    Walsh’s paedophile orientation and not his sexuality in general.

19.53 Archbishop Connell, Bishops Kavanagh, O’Mahony, Murray and  Walsh were present at this meeting, as was Monsignor Stenson.  This seems  to be the first time that the possibility of reporting to the Gardaí was raised  and, as is clear from Monsignor Sheehy’s reaction, Bishop Walsh’s  suggestion did not get very far.

19.54 In September 1990, Fr Walsh’s deadline was extended to allow him a  leave of absence for a year.   It is quite clear that the intention of Archbishop  Connell in agreeing to the leave was to prepare him for life as a layman.   He  was not allowed practice any ministry or wear clerical clothes.  Later  correspondence shows, however, that Fr Walsh thought that there might be a  change of heart.

19.55 An arrangement was made for Fr Walsh to live in a rehabilitation  centre outside Dublin.   It was envisaged that he would remain there until  September 1991.


19.56 By early January 1991, Fr Walsh was back in Dublin and living again  in Halston Street.   Monsignor Stenson discovered this by chance in a  conversation with Canon Rogers.   Canon Rogers and Fr Cleary were  supposed to be involved in monitoring Fr Walsh and Canon Rogers did not  want Monsignor Stenson to tell the Archbishop that Fr Walsh was back in  Dublin.   Canon Rogers was clearly very kind to Fr Walsh but was also very  blind to the criminal nature of his behaviour.   While he understood the  purpose of the leave of absence it seems that he did give Fr Walsh mixed  messages about the likelihood of his returning to ministry.  Fr Cleary  organised for Fr Walsh to attend a psychologist.   In February 1991,  Monsignor Stenson made it clear to Fr Walsh that there would be no future for  him in ministry and that he should “start planning constructively for the future”.

19.57 In March 1991, a scout leader and a parent contacted the Archdiocese  to report that Fr Walsh was back in Dublin.   Fr Walsh had been seen with a  boy in his car and was calling frequently to this boy’s house.   Monsignor  Stenson made inquiries with professionals about what to do in respect of this  boy as there were concerns but no complaint or evidence of abuse.   A short  time later, the mother of this boy asked questions about Fr Walsh and she  was told by another priest that he was a danger to children.

19.58 Monsignor Stenson met Fr Walsh and, according to Fr Walsh, told him  that he had been discussed at the bishops’ meeting and that everyone was  sick and tired of him “calling the shots”.   He also said that he was told to  move out of his present accommodation within seven days and get a job and,  if he did not apply for laicisation, the penal process to dismiss him would be  set in train.   In a letter to Archbishop Connell, Fr Walsh stated:  “I don’t know very much about the kind of process Msgr Stenson  talked about, except that it seems to be some kind of enquiry board  which might listen to me, even if it might in the long run dismiss me.  So I agree to cooperate with the board or process if it will let me state my own case before it and let me have some people to explain my  side of the story and give me a fair trial”.

19.59 At a bishops’ meeting in March 1991 it was decided to institute a penal  process against Fr Walsh.   The bishops also discussed informing the Gardaí  but did not do so.

19.60 Fr Walsh was continuing to attend the psychologist.  The psychologist  had been in touch with the Archdiocese to try to establish the full extent of the  problem.

19.61 The psychologist reported to Monsignor Stenson that Fr Walsh was a  long way from understanding the nature of his problem.  Coincidentally the  psychologist had, in the recent past, met one of Fr Walsh’s victims whose  mother had contacted him to advise on a family matter.  The psychologist  arranged a meeting between this victim’s mother and Fr Walsh at her request.

19.62 Fr Walsh was sent to Mellifont Abbey in May 1991.  The Archdiocese  was examining some options for residential treatment.   In June, the  psychologist reported that he believed Fr Walsh was making progress.  Fr  Walsh told him that the first incident happened when he was 24 and involved  a boy sitting on his lap.  This, of course, was subsequently established to be  untrue but, at this time, the earliest abuse known to the Archdiocese did occur  when Fr Walsh was 24.  The psychologist favoured intensive residential  treatment but pointed out: “he should be able to realise that it is not about a  treatment package that will cure him but his learning controls for the rest of  his life”.    Stroud was consulted and they also recommended a particular  centre in the UK.  Fr Walsh did not want to go for residential treatment.

19.63 In June 1991, Monsignor Stenson met a young man from Ballyfermot  who complained that he had been abused by Fr Walsh in 1980/1981 when he  was aged about 12.  This complainant told him that Fr Walsh had started to  frequent Ballyfermot again around 1990 and was continuing to do so.

19.64 In August 1991, Fr Walsh had a review meeting with Monsignor  Stenson where he expressed his dissatisfaction with Mellifont.  He refused to  go to the therapeutic centre in the UK stating that he was happy with his  current therapist.

Concerns reported to Gardaí

19.65 Shortly after this meeting, Fr Walsh approached a young boy in  Drumcondra and, having established his name and address, asked him to get  into the car. The boy immediately went home and told his mother.  The  following day he called to the boy’s house.  The mother called the Gardaí.

19.66 The garda investigation started in the absence of any specific  allegation of child sexual abuse.  The Gardaí contacted Mellifont.   A priest in  Mellifont told the Gardaí that Fr Walsh was in Mellifont because there were  numerous allegations of paedophilia against him and referred them to the  Archdiocese.  In his report on the matter in 2002, the garda investigating the  case stated that, as no crime had been committed, he himself reported the  matter (he does not say to whom and there is no record of a report on the  garda files) and then circulated Fr Walsh’s car number and a description of Fr  Walsh as being likely to engage in paedophilia.  No attempt was made at that  stage to investigate the statement that Fr Walsh had been sent to Mellifont  because of numerous allegations of paedophilia.

19.67 The Archdiocese took the fact that Fr Walsh had now come to the  attention of the Gardaí far more seriously than the Gardaí did.   Monsignor  Stenson noted:     “Apparently  [a garda] from Whitehall Garda Station had been  looking for a Fr [Walsh] with an address at Mellifont. [Walsh] had  approached a child and the mother had complained to the  Police.  …  I rang  [the garda] and explained who I was and what I had  heard. I asked if he could provide details.  He did but wondered if  [Walsh] had a record.  I evaded that but told him to proceed with  whatever steps he thought he should take.”

19.68 The memo records that Monsignor Stenson had been telephoned by  the superior of Mellifont and told the Gardaí were investigating the incident.   Monsignor Stenson told the Commission that he acted within the bounds of  his oath of secrecy as chancellor but rang the Gardaí to ensure confirmation  of the identification of Fr Walsh and of his attachment to the Archdiocese of  Dublin.

19.69 In September 1991, the Archbishop ordered Fr Walsh to live in St John  of God psychiatric hospital until such time as he was to be transferred to the  therapeutic centre in the UK.  On the night before he was due to enter St  John of God’s, he attempted to persuade a young boy aged 11, whom he had  baptised, into his car.  The boy refused.  He then followed the boy to his  house and attempted to persuade his sister that the boy should go out with  him.  The family called the Gardaí.   In an interview with his psychologist the  following day Fr Walsh described the boy as “incredibly good looking”.   He  did go into St John of God’s but “baulked at forfeiting his car”.

19.70 A few days later, the garda investigating the concerns expressed in  August 1991 rang Monsignor Stenson inquiring about Fr Walsh’s  whereabouts.  It seems that gardaí from another station had been in touch  with him concerning a young boy who had recently been approached by Fr  Walsh outside a shopping centre.   Monsignor Stenson told the garda that Fr  Walsh was in St John of God’s and that he had no access to his car.   It then  emerged that this Garda was aware of an incident involving Fr Walsh and the  most recent complainant which occurred a year earlier.  At the time, the garda  reported the incident to the boy’s headmaster but did not do anything else.    Monsignor Stenson’s note of these contacts with the garda ends: “[the garda] assured me that there was ‘no question of prosecution’- asked has he a  history etc.   I indicated that we had been concerned about him”.

19.71 The garda, in his report written some 11 years later, stated that  Monsignor Stenson told him that the Church was carrying out an internal  investigation into the paedophile activities of Fr Walsh and that he had asked  for the garda’s  co-operation. What was meant by co-operation is not clear.   Monsignor Stenson has indicated to the Commission that he may have been  referring to the possibility of the garda giving evidence to the Church penal  process.  The garda did, in fact, give evidence to that process.

19.72 At around this time the garda’s report also records that Fr Willie Walsh  called to Whitehall station stating that he had been appointed to carry out an  internal investigation into the paedophile activities of Fr Walsh.  Fr Willie Walsh was the presiding judge in the Church penal process being undertaken  at that time.  The garda gave him details of the incident in August.  The garda  report stated that neither Monsignor Stenson nor Fr Willie Walsh made any  report of a criminal nature concerning the activities of Fr Walsh or any other  priest.

19.73 Further correspondence ensued between Monsignor Stenson and the  garda (see below).  However, for all practical purposes, any garda  investigation into Fr Walsh’s activities ceased at this point even though by  now, while there were no specific complaints of child sexual abuse known to  the Gardaí, they were aware of three incidents of suspicious behaviour.   Of  course, Monsignor Stenson’s failure to tell the Gardaí of the other known  allegations against Fr Walsh meant that they were, as yet, unaware of the  bigger problem.

19.74 Meanwhile Fr Walsh was proving  to be difficult and unco-operative in  St John of God’s.  He was sent to the UK clinic in November 1991 and he  remained there until December.  A report from this clinic states that he  admitted to abusing 100 boys.  The report outlines the classic picture of a  paedophile grooming children, then abusing them and minimising the impact  of his behaviour.  The clinic recommended that he undergo a six month  intensive course.  Fr Walsh returned to Dublin to live with his sister.   Monsignor Stenson reported this to the garda and also said that Fr Walsh had  been told not to use his car.  It is not clear whether the sister was informed of  Fr Walsh’s proclivities.


19.75 Fr Walsh returned to the UK clinic in January 1992 to begin his  intensive course.  A remarkable tale then emerged.  Apparently the clinic  allowed Fr Walsh to roam the streets of the nearby large city unsupervised.   He dressed in clerical attire and introduced himself to local clergy and said  mass in local churches.  He befriended a family with young children telling  them that he was training as a counsellor at the clinic and that if they saw him  with other people in the street they should not approach him as you could not  be too careful around sex offenders.  Fr Walsh visited their house and paid a  lot of attention to their 11-year-old son including sitting him on his lap.  He  agreed to baby-sit for their children.  By chance, the father of the children called to the clinic where the true story emerged.  Fr Walsh was immediately  removed from the clinic and returned to Ireland.   Monsignor Stenson noted:  “The real problem is what do we do now? At least the penal process can  continue”.

19.76 Monsignor Stenson reported Fr Walsh’s return to the garda sergeant  and commented: “In view of Fr [Walsh’s] behaviour in the past you might give  this information whatever attention you think it may require”.

19.77 In March 1992, the bishops again decided that he was to be instructed  not to say mass, not to wear clerical dress and not to exercise any functions  of priesthood.   He was to engage in a form of occupational therapy and it  was decided to inform a number of parish priests of the position.  He was also  told that he could not use his car.  He was given work in the archdiocesan  library.

Evidence to the Church penal process, April 1992

19.78 The process to dismiss Fr Walsh from the clerical state was started in  January 1992, almost a year after the decision was made to do so.  Fr Walsh   fought the penal process at every stage.

19.79 In April 1992, he gave evidence.   He admitted to abusing five named  individuals and to approximately 100 instances of abuse in respect of ten  unnamed children.  He said that he had had another 80, 90 or possibly 100  children sitting on his knee in Ballyfermot.  When questioned further on this,  he agreed that he was sexually aroused when the children were sitting on his  knee.  This is child sexual abuse.   He claimed that the last time he abused  had been in April 1988.  He complained about most of the treatment he had  received.  He wanted to remain a priest and felt a keen sense of injustice in  being the subject of the penal process: “I will continue to fight. I intend doing  this because I believe that it is the Archbishop of Dublin and Alex Stenson  versus [Walsh] and God and who can fight against God?”.

19.80 Among the other people who gave evidence at the penal process  were a number of parents of complainants, the garda involved in the 1991  concerns and the psychologist who was treating Fr Walsh.  The mother of the  1979 complainant who gave evidence to the penal process told the Commission that she did not understand what the penal process was.  The  process and her role within it were not explained to her and nobody contacted  her after she gave evidence.  She did subsequently, in or around 1995, meet  Bishop Willie Walsh who had been the presiding judge.  He apologised to her  and she told him more about Walsh.

19.81 The psychologist told the process:  “I think the problem rests in this privileged access.  [Walsh] in at least  three of the recent encounters where there was no sexual contact but  there was if you like engagement of young boys and some kind of   relationship has made it known that he was a priest and as such, we  should see it as both a power base which gives them the ability to  engage and control the child and secondly perhaps sanction because  a normal man cannot but someone who is entitled to talk to people like  a priest can”.

Further concerns, 1992

19.82 In July 1992, Fr Walsh befriended a 15-year-old boy and made  arrangements to go bowling with him.  One of the boy’s parents, who was a  garda, contacted a local priest who in turn contacted the chancellery.  This  incident was also reported to his psychologist.  Fr Walsh denied any sexual  intent.  He then drafted a series of undertakings in relation to his future  behaviour and gave this to Monsignor Sheehy.

19.83 Fr Walsh was not getting on very well in the archdiocesan library.  He  failed to turn up for two weeks in July 1992.  A priest from Westland Row told  Monsignor Stenson that he was spending some time in that parish.   Monsignor Stenson asked this priest to contact the garda superintendent at  College Green, who was a friend of this priest, and request that he keep an  eye on Fr Walsh.  In September 1992, Fr Walsh complained to the Archbishop  about “persecution” by Monsignor Stenson.

19.84 In December 1992, a couple reported to Monsignor Stenson that Fr  Walsh had been calling to their home and one day they discovered their tenyear-old son sitting on his lap.  The couple were not making a complaint but  Monsignor Stenson warned them to ensure that Fr Walsh stayed away from  their son.  A few days later one of the parents told Monsignor Stenson that Fr Walsh had called into the local scouts meeting stating that he was “attached  to Clonliffe”.   Monsignor Stenson reported this to the bishops.


19.85 In May 1993 Monsignor Stenson received a letter from another priest  advising of concerns expressed by a parishioner in Ballyfermot about Fr  Walsh’s inappropriate behaviour with a young girl.  There were also rumours  about his behaviour with altar boys.  This  priest clearly knew of Fr Walsh’s  reputation as he advised the parishioner to avoid all contact with him.

Verdict of the penal process

19.86 In August 1993, the verdict of the penal process was given.  The  finding was that Fr Walsh had offended against the sixth commandment of the  Decalogue (the Ten Commandments) with a minor or minors under the age of  16 and that he should be dismissed from the clerical state (see Chapter 4).

19.87 Fr Walsh’s psychologist was not impressed with the decision to  dismiss him from the priesthood.  He expressed his dissatisfaction to Fr Aidan  McGrath (who was Fr Walsh’s advocate or procurator during the penal  process) in September 1993:  “As you know, I favour judgements in the courts which both impose a  punishment, but which allow genuine change to lead to escape from  that punishment. Good deeds can earn both remission and  forgiveness.   [Walsh] faces no such prospect, and I wonder why this  kind of sentence was excluded”.

19.88 The psychologist explained his position to the Commission:  “What I  said was he has to have some carrot and some means of being controlled  and I told you there was a better way of controlling him if the priesthood could  find a way to use him rather than to dump him”.

Appeal to Rome

19.89 In October 1993, Fr Walsh appealed to Rome against the decision to  dismiss him.  He stated that he had not offended since 1988 and considered  the punishment of the tribunal too harsh.  In June 1994, the appellate judges  in Rome allowed his appeal as to the penalty imposed and held that he ought to remain in the clerical state provided he enter a monastery for a period of  ten years.


19.90 Meanwhile, a complaint of sexual assault was made to the Gardaí.  In  May 1994, a young boy complained to the Gardaí in Ballyfermot that he had  been sexually assaulted by Fr Walsh in the toilet of a pub following the funeral  of the boy’s grandfather.  The family alleged that a similar incident had  happened a year earlier but they did not report it at the time.  The Gardaí  contacted Monsignor Stenson.  Fr Walsh attended the garda station and  declined to answer any questions.  The Gardaí told Monsignor Stenson of  their intention to arrest Fr Walsh.  They also told him that they were in the  process of “linking of various skeletons” and that press were “sniffing out a  story”.  Fr Walsh denied the allegation.

19.91 In late 1994 there were newspaper reports about this latest incident;  these did not name either Fr Walsh or the boy.  In December 1994, a mother  of boys who had been abused by Fr Walsh rang Monsignor Stenson to say  that her son was suicidal and that Fr Walsh had been babysitting in recent  weeks.   Monsignor Stenson advised her to ring the Gardaí.   This case was  reported to the Gardaí.

19.92 Monsignor Stenson met Fr Walsh and conveyed the views of the  Archbishop, which in summary were:   • He was still a priest of the Archdiocese answerable to the Archbishop.   • He was not to wear clerical dress as previously advised on any  occasion.  • He was banned from being alone with a child.   • He was not to mislead people that he  was attached to the  Archbishop’s House, the Marriage Tribunal, Clonliffe College or the  library.  • If he did not comply with the Archbishop’s directions, his financial  situation would be reviewed.


19.93 In spite of the mounting evidence and in the light of the recent media  coverage, Monsignor Sheehy advised Archbishop Connell: “I think it  important that every one of us should at this stage avoid any excessive  reaction – no matter what the civil law may say. Least of all should we pay any  real attention to the money-making posturing of the media”.

19.94 Early in 1995, Fr Walsh admitted to the Gardaí that he had indecently  assaulted two boys in the 1980s.  These boys were being helped by their  local priest.  Fr Walsh, however, denied sexually assaulting either of the  brothers whose mother had recently been in touch with Monsignor Stenson  and who, on his advice, had reported the matter to the Gardaí.

19.95 A number of other complainants came to the attention of the Gardaí  and the Archdiocese.   In February 1995, Fr Walsh was charged in the District  Court with sexual assault in relation to the May 1994 complainant – the boy  who had been molested after his grandfather’s funeral.  Fr Walsh pleaded not  guilty.  He was convicted and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.  He  appealed both conviction and sentence.  The appeal was subsequently  withdrawn when he was convicted of further offences in December 1997.

19.96 In May 1995, the Archdiocese contacted the Gardaí and told them  about the other complaints which had come to the attention of other garda  stations.   Archbishop Connell instructed Monsignor Stenson to contact  known complainants to make them aware that Fr Walsh was facing criminal  charges and to empower them to make complaints to the Gardaí.

19.97 In June 1995, priests from Ballyfermot and other parishes were invited  to a meeting with Archbishop Connell for the purposes of discussing pastoral  problems that might be encountered in parishes following the recent publicity  surrounding Fr Walsh.

Finding a monastery

19.98 The Archdiocese was meanwhile grappling with the problem of what  to do with Fr Walsh.  According to the Archdiocese, no monastery would take  him and it was left in the situation that he was still a priest and it was obliged  to support him.   Archbishop Connell wrote to the judicial body in Rome (the Roman Rota) and outlined his disappointment with the decision of that body.   He also formally appealed its decision.  He told them he was unable to find a  monastery in Ireland.  He said that he had considered sending him abroad but  was unable to do so because Fr Walsh had been charged with a criminal  offence and could not be sent out of the jurisdiction.  He stated:  “ Equally, however, I must stress that, in view particularly of the impending  criminal proceedings in the civil court, it is imperative that I as Archbishop  be seen to act definitively in respect of Father [Walsh] in accordance with  the Canon Law.  In the present climate in this country, the alternative  could well be a serious scandal for the Church.  In the light of these circumstances, I request,  as a matter of extreme  urgency, that the Rome Rota would advise me as to the wish of the  Apostolic Tribunal and of the Holy See in this regard”.   (Emphasis in  original).

19.99 The publicity about Fr Walsh prompted the mother involved in the  1979 complaint to contact Monsignor Stenson in June 1995.  She told him  that he had not been helpful when they first communicated in 1986.   She also  said that her local parish priest had not been helpful either.  Monsignor  Stenson noted that she was a fine person who  “is not interested in seeking  compensation”.  He explained to her the various attempts made to restrict  and treat Fr Walsh over the years.  Monsignor Stenson told the Commission  that he regrets that the mother did not perceive him as helpful.  Monsignor  Stenson had, in fact, made efforts to help her son in 1986 and he did try to  restrict Fr Walsh’s singing appearances but he did not tell her this.  He now  regrets that he did not tell her of his intentions in 1986.

19.100 In July 1995, Fr Walsh was charged with further sexual offences in the  District Court.  The case was adjourned to allow the Gardaí pursue further  investigations.  In November 1995, the Gardaí told Monsignor Stenson that all  garda stations had been asked to collate all cases they had concerning Fr  Walsh.

19.101 At this stage, the Archdiocese was reporting all complaints to the  Gardaí.  Complainants were being offered counselling.

Dismissed by the Pope

19.102 Following a number of letters to Rome, in November 1995 Archbishop  Connell contacted a senior member of the Curia in Rome in order to petition  Pope John Paul II to dismiss Fr Walsh from the clerical state ex-officio: “The  Archbishop humbly begs the Holy Father graciously to grant him this favour in  the interests of the well-being of the Church”.

19.103 This plea was successful and in January 1996, a decree was issued  by Cardinal Ratzinger confirming that the Pope had dismissed Fr Walsh from  the clerical state.   Monsignor Sheehy expressed surprise at this entirely new  departure in canon law which would take him some time to digest.  That  decree was executed by the Archbishop in February 1996.  The Commission  understands that this initiative to personally petition the Pope was a novel one  which created a precedent.

19.104 Fr Walsh tried to appeal against the Pope’s decision.  He petitioned  Rome to seek to intervene with the Pope and allow him to remain a priest,  stating that he was currently living in a Cistercian monastery in Mount  Melleray and was awaiting the outcome of criminal proceedings.  It is not  clear how he ended up in Mount Melleray given that they had originally  declined, understandably, to allow him to stay there.

19.105 From July 1996, the Archdiocese no longer regarded Walsh as entitled  to receive remuneration in the normal way.   He was awarded £10,500 in  severance pay (see Chapter 8).

1996 – 1997

19.106 By February 1996, the DPP had directed that Walsh be tried on  indictment in relation to six complainants.   In June 1997 he pleaded guilty to  seven charges in respect of four complainants.  He pleaded not guilty to four  other charges.

19.107 The young man who was the subject of the 1979 complaint contacted  the Archdiocese in November 1997 and complained about the inadequate  response of Bishop Kavanagh to the complaint by his parents in 1979.  He  said that, had a more robust response been taken at the appropriate time,  further abuses could have been avoided.   Monsignor Dolan then met this young man and his mother.   The young man made it clear that he wanted the  Church to facilitate a mechanism whereby Walsh’s victims could be heard. He  later met Archbishop Connell.   Counselling was offered to the young man.

19.108 In November 1997, the health board contacted Monsignor Dolan and  was told that Walsh was living in Mount Melleray.

19.109 In December 1997, at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, Walsh pleaded  guilty to approximately 12 counts of indecent assault and gross indecency in  respect of six boys.  He was sentenced to consecutive terms in prison of six  and four years.  Subsequently, on appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal, in  August 1998, the prison sentences were upheld but were imposed on a  concurrent basis effectively reducing the prison term from ten to six years.

19.110 Following Walsh’s conviction, Archbishop Connell released a press   statement stating that Walsh had betrayed his mission of spiritual service and  expressed his deep sorrow and regret for the suffering endured by Walsh’s  victims.

19.111 The psychologist who had been treating Walsh gave evidence at the  request of the defence lawyers.  Some of the victims were very unhappy  about this as the psychologist was an employee of the Eastern Health Board.    Further complaints

19.112 Further complaints in relation to Walsh have continued to emerge  during the late 1990s and, indeed, in the 2000s.

19.113 In most cases, the complainants were met by Monsignor Dolan and  were offered counselling.  However, one complainant told the Commission  that he was unhappy with how he was treated and said that “the Church have  failed me and still fail me today”.

19.114 Various efforts were made to organise a meeting between Archbishop  Connell and the Ballyfermot victims.  At one stage, it was proposed to use a  mediator but that did not work out.  The 1979 complainant told the  Commission that he had noted that the Archbishop did not personally meet  complainants.  He arranged to meet the Archbishop.  He told the Commission that he challenged the Archbishop’s “management of the company”.  He said: “I did advise him he would be probably better off if he didn’t take some of the  advice that he gets and just uses his heart as his guide”.

19.115 A number of the victims from Ballyfermot met the Archbishop in May  1998.

Release from prison

19.116 In September 2001, as the time approached for Walsh’s release from  prison, the advisory panel recommended that the Archdiocese formally advise  the Probation and Welfare Services about his impending release and of the  fact that he was no longer a priest.   Archbishop Connell accepted this  recommendation.  The panel also expressed concerns about Walsh’s future.

19.117 Walsh wrote to the Abbot of Mount Melleray in March 2002 seeking to  be accommodated after his release from prison.  The Abbot contacted  Monsignor Dolan who told him that Walsh was no longer a priest.   The Abbott  declined to provide him with accommodation.   Around this time, Archbishop  Connell also contacted the governor of the prison and advised him that Walsh  had been laicised and that he must organise his own accommodation and  work upon his release.   Walsh then wrote to Cardinal Connell stating that he  had no place to live and no money. He stated: “I have been looking forward to  my release date for a long time but I did not expect that it would be  accompanied by the added ordeal of having nowhere to go”.

19.118  Walsh subsequently met the Archbishop and indicated that he would  do an Open University course living as a priest who could not function as a  priest.  He said it came as a considerable shock to him when it was explained  that he could not function as a priest.

19.119 Walsh has never accepted that he is dismissed from the priesthood.   He continued to seek ways of appealing against the Pope’s decision even  though the impossibility of this has  been explained to him many times by  many qualified people.   He has appeared in clerical dress on some  occasions.  He has been threatened with excommunication should he  continue to represent himself as a priest but this does not seem to have  deterred him.

The Prime Time Programme: Cardinal Secrets

19.120 In October 2002 Prime Time broadcast its  Cardinal Secrets programme.   A number of further complainants emerged.  Many of the  complaints related to activities in the 1970s and 1980s.

19.121 One of the complainants alleged that he had been abused in 1974 in  Clonliffe College.  He alleged that other people including a staff member had  seen him emerge from a locked room with Walsh.  Walsh was a seminarian at  that time and was involved in organising altar boy outings to the college.  The  Commission is not aware of any evidence that anyone in Clonliffe suspected  Walsh of child abuse at this time.  The Gardaí took the view that the  complainant was telling the truth and recommended prosecution.   However,  the DPP decided not to prosecute.

19.122 Between 2002 and 2006, over 20 further individuals alleged that they  were abused by Walsh.

The Commission’s assessment


19.123 The first complaint, in 1978, was investigated in a fairly desultory way  by Monsignor Glennon who accepted the priest’s denial.  That is, perhaps,  understandable, although it must be said that Monsignor Glennon rarely, if  ever, doubted the word of a priest when he was investigating cases such as  these.  The failure to deal with the second complaint, in 1979, is not so readily  understandable.  Of course, this complaint was being dealt with by different  people who may not have known about the earlier complaint.   By 1985, the  Archdiocese knew that he was a serial abuser.  His transfer to Westland Row  was clearly an attempt to avoid further scandal in Ballyfermot.  There was an  established clear danger to children and yet the welfare of children simply did  not arise for consideration.

19.124 There is no doubt that action should have been taken by the  Archdiocese at a much earlier stage – in 1979 at the latest.  However, the  Commission recognises that Archbishop Connell did act decisively once he  became Archbishop.  He decided to have Walsh laicised and he pursued this course in spite of the advice and, indeed, interference of his judicial vicar and  in spite of the Roman Rota.

19.125 As in other cases, it is notable how charitable the parents who  complained were.  It is abundantly clear that they simply wanted to ensure  that other children were not abused.  Gardaí

19.126 The Commission finds it unacceptable that two gardaí who had  concerns about Fr Walsh in 1990 and in 1992 failed to pursue a thorough  criminal investigation.  When a criminal investigation of sorts got under way in  1991, it was effectively shelved because the Church was carrying out its own  penal process.  The Commission recognises that there was no specific  complaint before the Gardaí at that stage but there were at least three  instances of concern.

19.127 The Archdiocese should have informed the Gardaí of all of its  concerns at this time but did not do so.

19.128 Subsequent complaints to the Gardaí were handled appropriately

11 thoughts on “Murphy Report Chapter on Rapist Priest Tony Walsh

  1. You were right to publish the entire section. I’ve just read it and the only conclusion one can come to is that the cover-up was systematic from top to bottom.

    There is still no significant oversight or transparency, so one can only assume that the institution in question likely to repeat or is repeating this pattern.

  2. I never again want anything to do with priests or religous, no catholic services, confession etc. They are perverts. They priests/church have devestated me and my beliefs, and have realy let me down. I have been decived/cheated by them for years.

  3. “the parents are most responsible people and there is no danger of publicity” … are you fucking kidding me? That’s part of the reason why they got away with it all along, The power they had was obscene. It’s disgusting.

  4. Bock the Robber, I don’t know much about this Tony Walsh person being from down here and all, but the story is truly sickening, heartbreaking, and I think that it’s good that you published it so people can get the raw facts about his misdeeds. I hope that his incarceration can bring about some type of awareness and cultural reform.

  5. The pity is that there is no Hell for these devils to rot in when they die. They got away with it all, just like Fred West and all the other monsters that walk the earth.

  6. Ok Bock the Robber – thanks for the link – it’s good that these things are getting sorted out, albeit so much later than the rest of the planet. How awful. It’s good that you are publishing and archiving these events though, so they cannot be bypassed as an inconvenient part of history. Too soon the mainstream papers and media dump their archives.

  7. It is partly due my 1990s childhood that I can’t understand how the church managed to accumulate such power and exert such control and influence. By my youth, the power was on the wane. I feel like an outsider looking into an Ireland I never (thankfully) knew.

    Something that I can’t get my head around is the lack of police involvement. Sexual assualts against children were reported to priests, not the gardai. Just think about that. Sexual assaults. It’s not until 1991 that the police get involved.

    56 paragraphs until a reference to a crime (“criminal nature of behaviour”).

    59 paragraphs until a reference to the gardai.

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