Fr Brendan Smyth was one of the most notorious paedophile priests in Ireland, responsible for sickening sex attacks on countless children over four decades.
His eventual arrest in the 1990s led to the |collapse of a Fianna Fail/Labour coalition government in the Republic because of the failure of the then Attorney General to extradite him to Northern Ireland.
Now, even from beyond the grave, the priest may once again topple a leading figure in Irish society — the head of the Roman Catholic Church in |Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady. It is accepted that the church tried to cover up the scandal of paedophile priests to protect the organisation’s reputation and influence. It is only in very recent times — and after a mountain of evidence was produced — that the church admitted its failings.
Cardinal Brady finds himself under pressure because he was present at meetings in 1975 when two children who had been abused by Fr Smyth were made to sign oaths not to speak about their experiences to anyone other than a priest. Effectively they were gagged from making a complaint to police or social services. That was the shameful manner in which the church reacted to allegations of abuse in those days.
At the time Cardinal Brady was a priest and part-time secretary to the Bishop of Kilmore, where the offences took place. He believes that he carried out his duties — investigating the allegations and passing on the information — in a fair manner. He did not feel it was his duty to instigate any further action or inform statutory bodies about the abuse.
While his was a lowly role at that time, he is now tainted by the failings of the hierarchy to stamp out clerical abuse and report offenders to police on both sides of the border. He may feel he is being judged unfairly, but in the court of public opinion there is a growing demand for his resignation and the momentum may become irresistible.