Belfast Telegraph

Cardinal Connell at centre of abuse cover-up dies

By Brian Hutton

A senior cleric criticised for his role in a Catholic Church cover-up of child sex abuse has died aged 90.

Cardinal Desmond Connell, the former Archbishop of Dublin, had been ill for some time. He passed away peacefully in his sleep.

Born in the city in 1926, Cardinal Connell was appointed Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland in 1988 — making him the most powerful Church figure in the Irish Republic.

A noted theologian and academic for much of his career, his appointment surprised many and some thought he was not suited to the high-ranking public role.

But three years later he was elevated again after he was appointed the first Dublin-based cardinal in 120 years by Pope John Paul II.

He remained archbishop until 2004.

By this time he was coming under growing pressure to resign over revelations about paedophile priests operating with impunity in the archdiocese.

Although he claimed he was appalled at the scale of abuse when he took office, he appeared slow to address the issue, opting for secret internal Church tribunals to defrock abusive priests rather than potentially explosive public prosecutions.

In 2008, Cardinal Connell caused outrage and narrowly avoided a damaging public row with his successor when he mounted a High Court challenge to try to block a judge-led inquiry into Church sex abuse having access to 5,500 files on priests and abuse allegations.

Professor Moore McDowell, an economist who worked with Cardinal Connell during his time as an academic, said he was not the right person to lead the Church in the Republic.

He said: “I’m sorry he has died. He had a long life and he lived it according to his own lights.

“He was not the right person for the job but he did his best.”

John Kelly, of the Survivors of Child Abuse (Soca), said Cardinal Connell will be remembered with anger by many victims.

“He died leaving many unanswered questions and the truth hasn’t come out,” he said.

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