Pressure was last night mounting on the Bishop of Derry over his involvement in a ‘secret deal' over an alleged child sex abuse case.
Dr Seamus Hegarty yesterday confirmed that his diocese facilitated a confidentiality clause in an out-of-court settlement in 2000 between a priest and a young woman who claimed she had been sexually abused as a young child.
Foyle MP Mark Durkan has now called on the Derry Diocese and Catholic Church to make public all confidentiality clauses signed with victims of abuse.
The Belfast Telegraph today reports on the details of another out-of-court settlement in 2004, which Bishop Hegarty was aware of, in which a sex abuse victim was awarded £19,000 and another secret deal was signed.
The sense of crisis enveloping the Catholic Church deepened last night after Cardinal Sean Brady also admitted he was sued by a young woman who accused a priest in his Armagh diocese of raping her. In this case the woman received a payment of £45,000 from the priest, Father Joseph Quinn.
Yesterday the Belfast Telegraph revealed that a woman, who claimed she was abused by a Derry priest from the age of eight, took a civil action against current Bishop of Derry, Seamus Hegarty, his predecessor and the alleged abuser.
That action was settled in 2000 without admission of liability, with the priest agreeing to pay £12,000 in compensation to the woman and also giving her a letter of apology.
However, the settlement contained a confidentiality clause barring the woman from discussing the case.
The abuse happened over a 10-year period starting in 1979 when the girl was eight years old.
Bishop Hegarty has now insisted the controversial confidentiality agreement was not proposed by the diocese.
He said: “A confidentiality agreement was not proposed by the diocese, but was proposed to the diocese by one of the other parties, and, to facilitate a settlement, the diocese agreed.”
He also insisted that social services had been alerted to the alleged abuse in May 1995, 16
months after the Church was notified about the allegations.
He said that the church spoke to the RUC about the matter but did not make clear if it was a member of the clergy who reported the claims or if it was the alleged victim herself.
This is the second time Dr Hegarty was embroiled in a sex abuse allegation against a priest in the Derry Diocese where a settlement was reached but included a confidentiality clause.
The previous case centred around Fr Andy McCloskey, a priest from Dungiven, who in 2004, as part of a settlement, gave £19,000 to a young man without admission of liability.
Although the 2004 case received considerable publicity at the time the Belfast Telegraph is today repeating the details of the settlement amid growing concerns over confidentiality clauses signed between the Catholic Church and victims of abuse, which are in contradiction of Church rules.
When the story was first reported in 2005, Bishop Hegarty, in an interview with BBC’s Spotlight confirmed he knew about the allegation against Fr McCloskey from a man named in the court document, and further confirmed his knowledge of a second serious sexual allegation made by someone else against the Dungiven priest.
The Bishop also confirmed that he knew about the 2004 civil action and the terms of the settlement including the confidentiality agreement.
Foyle MP Mark Durkan, has said now is the time for Bishop Hegarty to take the lead and disclose exactly how many cases remain hidden from the public.
He added: “How many more cases are we going to be told about in relation to confidentiality agreements?”
“Rather than the onus being put on victims or families, the Church now has to come forward with a full disclosure as to how many of these cases there are out there.
“The Church needs to tell anyone who entered into such a confidentiality agreement that they are exonerated from them and that they are free to come forward.
“What has to be done now is a mechanism needs to be created that allows people to come forward so that this can be dealt with in everyone’s interests.”