Kenneally victims’ frustration over
delay in establishing Commission
The delay in establishing an inquiry into how State Agencies handled the cases of those abused by convicted paedophile Bill Kenneally is heaping further upset on his victims.
Abuse survivor Colin Power said a statement issued by Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan on Thursday last, which cited legal advice from the Attorney General’s Office in delaying the inquiry’s establishment, had compounded the victims’ growing levels of frustration.
“This delaying tactic, and that’s exactly what this is, is terrible news for us,” Mr Power told The Munster Express, just hours after the Department of Justice had issued the statement.
“We were told by the Government last April that a Commission of Investigation would be set up to look at how the various agencies dealt with our cases. But here we are, nine months later, and this hasn’t moved on, even an inch. There’s no sign of us being told when exactly this inquiry will begin. That’s nowhere near good enough. And we won’t let this lie.”
According to Minister Flanagan: “It would be entirely inappropriate for this Government to take any action which risks seriously compromising those investigations and/or criminal proceedings. Criminal investigations are ongoing in respect of a number of such cases and files have been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to several cases and directions are awaited.
“Any victims coming forward with allegations of sexual abuse are entitled to have their claims fully investigated and, where appropriate, prosecuted.”
However, lawyer Darragh Mackin says this contention doesn’t stack up since there are no new cases in relation to Bill Kenneally currently before the courts. Kenneally’s appeal against the 14-year prison sentence handed down in February 2016 is due to be heard later this month.
Colin Power’s frustration with Minister Flanagan’s statement was compounded by assurances he said were given by Flanagan’s predecessor, Frances Fitzgerald, when she met with victims last year.
When put to him that Minister Fitzgerald had suggested that modules of the Commission could convene while taking into account any new investigations into Bill Kenneally’s activities, Mr Power was adamant in his reply.
“It wasn’t even suggested. That commitment was categorically put to us when we met Frances Fitzgerald. And that’s what makes this statement (from Minister Flanagan) so infuriating.”
He continued: “I sat in a meeting with Frances Fitzgerald, as did Jason (Clancy) and Paul (Walsh). Brendan Howlin was there, Paul Kehoe, the Minister for Defence was there; and there were three advisers with her (then Minister Fitzgerald) and two other guys from the policing end of things, as far as I can remember.
“And we had given her a dossier; she had asked the Guards for a response to the dossier, they had given her a response that she wasn’t happy with at the time and she said she was going to go back to them on that. But at that meeting, one of her advisers said, look, if there’s ongoing investigations, it might be difficult to set up an inquiry and I said that that was just a cop out.”
Colin Power told The Munster Express: “There are so many victims (of Kenneally’s) and this could go on for years if this was being held up by the Government because of ongoing investigations but in response to all of this, Frances Fitzgerald said (paraphrasing): ‘No. If I think there’s a need for an inquiry after the Waterford Gardaí come back to me, I will have an inquiry – but there are ways around this.’ She said that. To be fair to her, I think even then she knew she was on her way out of the Department of Justice when she announced that Barry Hickson would be the (Commission of Inquiry’s) judge. There’s a new Minister for Justice, now we haven’t met him yet and I don’t think he knows the story, to be honest. Nobody can know the full story unless they talk to any of us. But I think it’s gone back to the status quo now, shut doors and all that.”
Talk of potentially compromising live investigations didn’t wash with Colin Power. And this feeling was exacerbated by the news which RTE’s Damien Tiernan broke on Thursday morning last in relation to a then teenage boy who, in 1985, having just finished his Intermediate Certificate, went to Waterford Garda Station where he said he was abused that same day by Bill Kenneally.
The teenager said that when he mentioned Kenneally’s name, he was told to go home and return with an adult. He never did, and in fact kept the entire experience to himself until other abuse victims of Bill Kenneally’s went public.
Their decision prompted him to make a statement to Waterford Gardaí on Monday, January 9th last year, with his wife also making a statement, reflecting the toll that living with this experience for over 30 years has taken on him. Within a matter of minutes of Damien Tiernan’s report airing, the man received a phone call from Gardaí.
“I believe firmly that the Guards are deliberately stalling this,” said Colin Power. “And if a victim who came forward last January wasn’t contacted by the Guards until Damien Tiernan mentioned it on national radio, a full year later, that’s just awful. And that’s wrong.”
Added to this, a man now living in the United States contacted the known Kenneally abuse victims having watched a video the victims posted on Facebook (with 140,000 views approximately) and alleged that he had also been abused by the former sports coach.
In his report for ‘Morning Ireland’, Damien Tiernan said this man had contacted Waterford Gardaí in April 2013 with a view to making a statement.
The alleged victim told Damien Tiernan that following a five minute phone conversation with investigating Gardaí he was told that “they had enough victims” (to quote Tiernan) and would get back to him if they needed to. Gardaí have not done so, much to the man’s upset.
This allegation dates to the late 1970s, when the man was in his teens, which pre-dates the 1987 date offered by Gardaí in relation to their first becoming aware of Kenneally’s activities. He said he was asked by detectives at the time “if he knew about Kenneally and if he had ever done anything to him or his friends”, as Damien Tiernan put it in his report.
Said Colin Power: “Someone else could come forward tomorrow, next year or in five years’ time. We speak to people who are in the position that they’re thinking about coming forward, but the uncertainty about the inquiry and when it will go ahead is actually putting some people off because some of them are now feeling what’d be the point now?
“When people are being brave enough to take this step and tell the Guards that they were victims too, to have this uncertainty hanging over as to when this inquiry will happen, is terrible. And for someone who is on his own in all of this to come forward and be told, ‘look, we have enough victims’, sure where’s the justice in that? The reason the man who came forward was told this, and it’s clear in my mind, is that what he told the Guards happened pre-1987, and the Guards have said they only became aware of (Bill) Kenneally in 1987.”
He added: “There’s at least three people, now dead, that we’re aware of, who would have had information on this. There are others who, I think, will use their age to try and get out of it and there are so many others, we feel, from a certain element of society in Waterford, who knew what this man was doing at the time. They’re from a particular level, and I see them walking around town and while we can’t hold them to account – these aren’t Gardaí I’m talking about – but we can certainly expose that they knew that Bill Kenneally was abusing us, and they turned a blind eye to it for reasons only they can really explain. ”
Colin Power feels that the Minister for Justice is “hiding behind” alleged legalities as professed in last Thursday’s statement.
“Our solicitor, Darragh Mackin, who has done a huge amount of work in terms of human rights, is adamant that that there’s nothing in play that’s holding this inquiry up. As I said, we don’t know if there are live investigations or if they’re with the DPP – and Charlie Flanagan didn’t mention that in his statement either. If his defence is that there are ongoing prosecutions and that’s what’s holding up the inquiry, then we may never be at a stage where there is an inquiry. The Gardaí spoke to 54 people who made statements (in relation to Bill Kenneally’s activities), and 10 of those came forward, including myself and just because they spoke to 54 people, that doesn’t mean that’s all the people who were abused. They’re just the people they’ve spoken to. And now we have somebody who’s prepared to go on the record about a pre-1987 incident and he’s been told that they’ve enough victims – that’s wrong…
“Frances Fitzgerald, as Justice Minister, told us one thing. Charlie Flanagan has now come and told us another thing. My belief is that what Charlie Flanagan has said is a cop-out. He hasn’t met us yet so he doesn’t know the story. He cannot know the story unless he has met us.”
Colin Power concluded: “We’ve tried to do this in a dignified way. We’re only ordinary fellas. But we have other avenues which we’ll take if we have to, including the European Court of Human Rights. It’s not something we want to do and it’s certainly not something we should be put in a position where we have to do it and we’re very clear about that.
“But if Charlie Flanagan or anyone else thinks we won’t do it or that we’re not prepared to do it, well then they’ve got that wrong. We’re given them the option to do the right thing by us at the moment and it’s not just us, it’s future victims.
“There’s a stigma against people who were abused, whether we like it or not, and if that stigma remains there and people feel stifled and the perception is out there that the Government doesn’t want an inquiry, what is the Government afraid of? Just have the inquiry. Bill Kenneally was sentenced in 2016 – almost two years ago now – the inquiry could have been done and dusted by now.”