“We were told, around the time of the court case, that (Bill) Kenneally would not be named unless we went public. That’s the only reason any of us went public. The five of us went public on this. We have 16 children between us. Hopefully we’ll all have grandchildren. We’re not naïve enough to think we’ll change the world or change society but we can do something to help people because there are children being abused today in this country, in this city and until there’s no stigma left and people are comfortable that they can go forward.”
This is a segment of the testimony provided on a Facebook video featuring four of the five men who waived their right to anonymity in February 2016 on RTE’s ‘Prime Time’ to talk about their experiences at the hands of convicted paedophile Bill Kenneally.
That same month, Kenneally (67) was sentenced to 14 years in prison having after pleading guilty to 10 sample counts of indecently assaulting 10 boys between 1984 and 87 – he’s due to appeal against the length of that sentence later this month.
The bravery extolled by Jason Clancy, Kevin Keating, Barry Murphy, Colin Power and Paul Walsh, coupled with the oxygen of publicity generated by a range of titles, and spearheaded on air and TV by RTE’s Damien Tiernan, ensured that this appalling case came into the public sphere. There is no re-corking of this particular bottle, nor should one be countenanced.
And that is what made the statement issued by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan in relation to the promised Commission of Investigation (as of May 30th last year).
In the statement, Minister Flanagan contends that: “The legal issues that prevented the Commission from being established at this time related to additional complaints of sexual abuse received by An Garda Síochána.
“With an obligation on the Commission to disclose relevant information in its possession to a person giving evidence to the Commission, this might compromise evidence that such persons might give in criminal proceedings, thus jeopardising the rights of the victims to having their complaints investigated and prosecuted and any potential accused to a fair trial.
It would be entirely inappropriate for this Government to take any action which risks seriously compromising those investigations and/or criminal proceedings.”
But as victims’ lawyer Darragh Mackin told RTE’s Sean O’Rourke on the notion that an ongoing investigation might jeopardise or prejudice such an inquiry: “We say that is not correct and we say that it can be dealt with in very simple terms: public inquiries by their very genesis can have mechanisms to deal with and to prevent any element of prejudice on any other investigation.”
Given the domestic precedents referenced by Labour leader Brendan Howlin on home soil, (i.e. the 2006 Commission which examined child sexual abuse allegations in the Dublin Archdiocese and Banking Inquiry), we are struggling to understand the Department of Justice’s logic when it comes to putting a stay on the ‘Kenneally Commission’.
Citing the experience of retired circuit judge Barry Hickson who is due to lead the inquiry, Deputy Howlin said that Kenneally’s sentencing “has happened and there’s no impediment to the questions that are being asked by the victims to be fully ventilated and answered now, in my judgement”.
As Jason Clancy put it on Friday last, justice delayed is clearly justice denied. This Commission of Inquiry must proceed.