Belfast Telegraph

'Fr Brendan Smyth threatened to knock my head off... I said make my day, you b*****d'

Fellow priest tells inquiry about confronting paedophile

Disgraced priest Brendan Smyth
Disgraced priest Brendan Smyth
Fr William Fitzgerald

By Deborah McAleese

Paedophile priest Brendan Smyth threatened to punch another cleric who warned him to stay away from children.

Smyth told Fr William Fitzgerald he was going to "knock (his) head off" when confronted with allegations that he had sexually abused young boys and girls, the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI) heard yesterday.

Fr Fitzgerald, who is a member of the Norbertine Order which Smyth belonged to, said that the notorious child abuser turned angry when he told him he was not welcome to assist in altar service.

"I told him that 'in view of rumours about your sexual activities I will not have you near these kids under my watch'," Fr Fitzgerald told the court.

He added: "He told me 'I'll knock your head off', and I said 'make my day, you b*****d'. I'm 18 inches taller than him."

The HIAI is currently examining if systematic failures by individuals and institutions allowed Smyth to continue abusing young children over the course of four decades.

Fr Fitzgerald said that even before his ordination Smyth was "notorious in Rome", where he was studying at the Curia Generalizia Collegio.

During that time he was accused of having abused a child within the vicinity of the college. The Norbertine Order's head priest in Rome warned against Smyth's ordination, but his superiors ignored the advice and he was ordained in 1951.

Smyth was medically diagnosed as a paedophile in February 1974, according to confidential documents from St Patrick's psychiatric hospital in Dublin, where Smyth received treatment in the early 1970s.

The documents, which were made public for the first time yesterday, also revealed that officers from An Garda Siochana were aware of Smyth's abuse as far back as 1974, but failed to take action.

Smyth's doctor at the time described him in his notes as "a clever man, regarded as a 'bit crazy, with a screw loose'".

The medical notes documented Smyth's relations with young boys and girls and said there was "no evidence of shame or remorse".

The notes also said that the Norbertine Order "are now very concerned and anxious to know if anything can be done to help this man and avert such incidents".

He was prescribed medication "in hope it will have dampening effect on libido".

Fr Fitzgerald, who is currently administrator of Kilnacrott Norbertine Abbey in Co Cavan, where Smyth was based, said that Smyth was never reported to the police because "the magic of the priestly ordination, you were in the class of the untouchable".

"Arresting wasn't something you ever did with a priest. Anything short of murder, or fiddling too much with the finances, like £1m worth... or serial killing... arresting wasn't done," said Fr Fitzgerald.

He added: "It was always the perpetrator (they were) concerned about. The victims, they might have said a few Hail Marys for them... it was pathetic."

Fr Fitzgerald said there was one occassion when Smyth admitted abusing a child and was removed from his public functions for two weeks.

"I mean, two weeks? It should have been for life... he should never have been ordained. The youngest victim of Brendan Smyth is (now) 28 years old.

"Every day of her life the horrible spectre of that man will be in her mind. How can anyone do anything to repair the damage done to her?"

Kilnacrott Abbey, which has since been sold, has settled 43 civil claims related to Smyth.

"He was a scary individual. He had a huge loud, roaring voice. All he had to do was yell at someone and they would jump out of their skin," Fr Fitzgerald told the inquiry.

Cardinal Sean Brady, who assisted a Church investigation into allegations against Smyth in the 1970s, is expected to give evidence ot the inquiry today.

The inquiry decided to investigate Smyth's activities following allegations made by numerous witnesses who have already given evidence.

Smyth was eventually jailed in the early 1990s for four years for sexually assaulting children.

Upon his release he was extradited to the Republic and sentenced to 12 years for 74 charges of child sex abuse.

Smyth died of a heart attack in prison in August 1997, just one month into his sentence.

Belfast Telegraph


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