The Commission of Inquiry which will examine the response to complaints or allegations of child sexual abuse made against convicted paedophile Bill Kenneally is set to begin sitting in late July or early August.
That’s according to an abuse survivor Colin Power, who re-iterated his thanks to all those who lobbied and contributed to the establishment of the Commission, which was approved by the cabinet last week. “Things have moved on a lot since January,” said Mr Power, “and it’s taken a lot of heavy lifting for us to reach this juncture, but it feels like we’ve taken a major step forward in terms of establishing who knew what in relation to the abuse, and, more importantly, when they knew it.”
Colin Power welcomed the cabinet’s approval of Justice Minister Flanagan’s proposal to establish the Commission of Investigation and he’s hopeful that its work will soon be underway.
“I’d be hopeful that we’d be looking at a late July/early August start date,” he told this newspaper.
“To be fair to Charlie Flanagan, he’s taken on board pretty much every concern and issue we have raised and he has moved pretty quickly since he came into the Department of Justice to get this off the ground and running. He’s been in regular contact with me at a level no-one in Government had been previously and I appreciate the approach he has adopted. We all do, to be fair.”
Speaking in the wake of last Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, Minister Flanagan stated: “This is an important day for the survivors of abuse committed by Bill Kenneally. I and my officials have consulted closely with the victims and their legal representatives on the draft Terms of Reference which Cabinet noted today. As Minister for Justice and Equality, I am particularly conscious of the importance of ensuring the Commission does not impact upon any pending criminal prosecutions and, accordingly, I have consulted with the Attorney General and the DPP who will monitor the Commission proceedings. I have always been conscious of balancing the rights of the survivors who have come forward and made allegations more recently to have their allegations fully investigated against the rights of those who have sought to have these very important matters investigated by a Commission.”
Minister Flanagan added: “It is my intention to seek time in both Houses of the Oireachtas in the next fortnight for a debate on these issues and a vote on the necessary Motions. Once the approval of both Houses is received, the Government will formally set and publish the Terms of Reference and establish the Commission of Investigation. It is my intention to have the Commission established as soon as possible.“
The news was also welcomed by Fianna Fáil TD Mary Butler. “We need to know who knew what and when, and find out where mistakes were made, and ensure that they are learned from,” she said.
“Too many families and children, now adults, have been left hurt and traumatised by the actions of Bill Kenneally, and by the apparent failure of certain State agencies to act on foot of complaints. I hope that the Oireachtas can vote on the establishment of this Commission of Investigation as quickly as possible to allow it start its much needed work.” Deputy Butler concluded: “Those who suffered at the hands of Bill Kenneally need to be able to tell their stories. This Commission is part of that process.”
It’s believed that a budget of €1.3 million has been set aside for the Commission, with Colin Power again offering thanks to the Waterford public for its support over the past two and a half years. “We’ll never be able to properly let people know how grateful we are for all the support, all the good wishes, the quick chat on the street, and the handshakes we’ve all received from complete strangers. All we want is the truth, and last Tuesday’s news brings us a few steps closer to establishing the truth.”
Meanwhile, Bill Kenneally is to apply to the Circuit Criminal Court to have 99 charges of alleged sexual assault dating back to the 1980s heard outside of Waterford.
Kenneally, formerly of Summerville Avenue, Waterford, is accused of assaulting three boys in the 1980s . His solicitor Matthew Byrne applied for an adjournment of the case.
Judge Eugene O’Kelly adjourned the case to Waterford Circuit Criminal Court on October 3rd next.