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Fr Brendan Smyth: Victims to sue after 1973 letter proves Garda knew priest was sex fiend

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Published 26/06/2015

Victims campaigner Margaret McGuckin
Victims campaigner Margaret McGuckin

Victims of paedophile priest Father Brendan Smyth are to take legal action against the Garda.

The move follows revelations that officers in Dublin knew about his sex abuse in the early 1970s.

Solicitor Kevin Winters said civil proceedings had been launched because of the "appalling failure" to stop Smyth.

"A number of victims of Smyth's abuse have asked us to write to the Garda commissioner to find out why they didn't act on a letter sent to Finglas Garda station in 1973," he said.

"Our clients are shocked to learn that the document didn't alert the Garda and the authorities to the very real risk of future abuse by Smyth."

Earlier this week, previously unseen confidential documents from St Patrick's Hospital in Dublin were shown to the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI). They revealed Smyth had asked his psychiatrist to have him admitted to hospital after coming to the attention of Garda in Finglas in 1973. In a letter to an officer at Finglas, the doctor said: "I have been asked to write to you by Fr Brendan Smyth of Holy Trinity Abbey, Kilnacrott. He has been a patient under my care for some months and I am familiar with the nature of his problems. I am writing to his superior suggesting that he should have a period of inpatient care in St Patrick's Hospital or in St Edmonds Bury.

"I hope this arrangement will be satisfactory to you and your superiors."

Mr Winters said the psychiatrist's letter ought to have precipitated the immediate arrest of Smyth. A case summary dated February 1974 also confirmed Smyth's diagnosis of paedophilia.

"They would like to know what was done in response to the extraordinary revelation that Smyth was diagnosed as a paedophile," said Mr Winters.

"The many victims of Smyth feel they are entitled to answers that are long overdue by 40 years.

"It has been deeply re-traumatising for them to learn about this letter and to that end feel they have no alternative but to issue civil proceedings for damages for what on the face of it was an appalling failure to take meaningful steps to prevent crimes against the innocent and vulnerable."

The medical notes were only released to the long-running public inquiry yesterday.

Victims campaigner Margaret McGuckin said: "We want to know where the cover-up starts and finishes and how far it spread.

"It is beyond comprehension to think that so many people's lives could have been different had the authorities acted sooner.

"It is a bad day for the Garda but we also want to know why it took so long for these documents to be handed over.

"All of those abused are entitled to be treated with some dignity and to be given the full truth.

"It is long overdue."

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