Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 30 October 2014

Veronica Guerin told garda phone conversations about paedophile priest were taped

Journalist Veronica Guerin was killed in 1996
Journalist Veronica Guerin was killed in 1996

Murdered Irish journalist Veronica Guerin was told her phone conversations with a garda about paedophile priest Sean Fortune were bugged by the same recording system which is only now coming under scrutiny.

She also believed that gardai were tipping off members of the hierarchy about her efforts to expose the cover-up of Fortune's rape and abuse of teenage boys.

The concerns that Veronica had stemmed from an apparent tip-off she received from a senior garda source in Dublin who told her that her conversations with a garda source in Wexford had been recorded. One of her sources for the story about the priest was local activist Billy Moroney, a former Labour Party member who, along with Fethard-on-Sea farmer Sean Cloney has since died, had built up files on Sean Fortune and other clerical abusers in the south east.

The whole abuse scandal stemmed from the work these men started and the publicity generated by Veronica and other journalists.

Mr Moroney said that as part of her investigations, Veronica had been in touch with a garda who was also concerned about Fortune, who was effectively being shielded by the church.

He told the Sunday Independent: "She (Veronica) rang me early on a Sunday morning, around 7.30pm, and told me to contact (the garda) and tell him their conversations had been bugged. She had been at a social function in Dublin on the Saturday night and some senior garda had told her about it. She was catching a flight to Manchester for a match in Old Trafford on the Sunday morning. She was adamant that I talk to (the garda) face to face.

"I drove to Wexford that afternoon and lucky enough he was in the station. I told him what Veronica said. I think he was already aware of what was happening. He was nervous and didn't want to say too much.

"She rang me again that night around 10.30 when she got back to Dublin to ask if I had met him as she said if I couldn't get him she was going to drive down first thing on the Monday morning."

Mr Moroney said the reason Veronica believed her conversations were being relayed to the hierarchy related to a letter of apology the church had sent to the parents of one of Fortune's victims. The boy and his parents had made a complaint to the church and the boy was brought to the All Hallows clerical centre in Dublin and questioned by senior clerics. A letter of apology was then sent to the boy and his parents.

Mr Moroney said: "(The mother) tore up the letter and burnt it. She didn't want her other children knowing what had happened to her son. Veronica would have been speaking about this with (the garda). As she was writing about this (the hierarchy) were saying: 'there is no letter'. She believed they had been tipped off that (the mother) had destroyed the letter."

The events took place in the spring of 1995, a year before she was murdered by Gilligan's gang. Veronica believed Fortune was being shielded by the church in connivance with certain gardai who were complicit in keeping a lid on the issue.At the time the suspected taping of her conversations took place an investigation was beginning.

A journalist had made an initial compliant about Fortune and, shortly after, Colm O'Gorman, who was a schoolboy in Wexford and subsequently became a prominent rights activist, also made a statement to gardai that Fortune had raped him.

Fortune was eventually arrested and charged with multiple counts of rape and sexual assault. At the time of his arrest he was sharing a house in Gorey, Co Wexford, with a teenage boy who was also selling sex to men in Dublin's Phoenix Park. It was this young man who was in Labour Party TD Emmet Stagg's car the night he was cautioned by gardai in the Park.

Fortune committed suicide in March 1999 rather than face trial. It subsequently emerged that Bishop Brendan Comiskey had been told on repeated occasions about Fortune's abuse of boys, but failed to take any action.

Sunday Independent

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