ARCHBISHOP DIARMUID MARTIN has said he sleeps better knowing that notorious child sex abuser Tony Walsh is in prison “and not walking the streets of Dublin”.
The archbishop of Dublin was speaking on RTE Radio1′s News at One today shortly after the chapter of the Murphy Report into clerical sex abuse in the diocese relating to ex-priest Walsh was published. The chapter had not been previously published because Walsh was in court on sex offences. When he was convicted and jailed on 17 counts of sexual abuse at the start of the month, the High Court ordered that the chapter could be published.
It contains harrowing detail of how Walsh abused serially and continually during his time as a Catholic priest. A complaint was made against him only two days after his first appointment to Ballyfermot parish in 1978, relating to the sexual abuse of an 8-year-old boy. That complaint was investigated by a Monsignor Glennon who said he believed Walsh was telling the truth and it was dropped.
The chapter can be read in full here on the Department of Justice’s website. In it, chapter 19, Tony Walsh is referred to as ‘Fr Jovito’ and none of his victims are identified.
Archbishop Martin said today that he believed that Walsh, who was defrocked by Pope John Paul II in 1989 on the advice of Cardinal Desmond Connell, most likely abused hundreds of children in the Ballyfermot parish. “At least seven priests in the archdioceses were aware of his behaviour,” said Archbishop Martin today. This is outlined in Chapter 19, which says the knowledge that Walsh was a serial paedophiliac offender was held by the seven by as early as March 1985. Rather than being suspended, he was removed from Ballyfermot and placed in Westland Row parish that year.
Archbishop Martin said that after the first complaint was received against Walsh in 1978, “He should not have been allowed to stay in ministry one day longer than that.”
He said that the Church authorities failed on two counts: they didn’t report Walsh to the gardai and they “didn’t do what they told parents they were going to do, which was to stop him”. He added:
Procrastination creates the climate in which serial paedophiles flourish.
Tony Walsh was well-known in Dublin as a “singing priest” and Elvis impersonator. “A number of complaints against him relate to his activities at these performances,” the Murphy Report says. He was even abusing children during his time as a seminarian.
In April 1985, Walsh admitted to Monsignor Stenson that he had been “involved” with a boy in Ballyfermot and had also been involved in an “incident” with a young boy in Wicklow.
Complaints continued to be made against Walsh in Ballyfermot until he was removed to Westland Row. He received an Archbishop’s letter which thanked him for his “dedicated work in Ballyfermot”. The Murphy Report notes:
While this is the standard formula in such appointments, it is, nevertheless, astonishing that it could be used in the light of (Tony Walsh’s) history in Ballyfermot.
The housekeeper at the parish house in Westland Row told gardai in 2002 that she noted Walsh had had boys sleep overnight in his bed, and had found condoms and syringes in his bedroom. She said she had told another priest who lived in the house in the 1980s but he did not reply to her.
Monsignor Stenson, who interviewed Walsh in 1988 about a new complaint against him, said Walsh had told him:
He mentioned how he can go into a class of 30 children and treat 29 as anyone would. But one may cause a spark. He admitted that over the eight years in Ballyfermot he was involved with boys about once a fortnight. He believes they didn’t realise what was happening. He would have them on his knee and reach a climax. He denies ever doing anything “queer” with them.
The report says that in May 1988, ten years after the first complaint was made to the Archdiocese, Walsh was sent to Stroud in England for “treatment”. He was removed from his position in Westland Row in June 1988. Even so, he continued to visit Ballyfermot and in September of the following year, was even given permission by the Archbishop to “solemnise a wedding” there. The psychiatrist who had treated Walsh from 1985 to 1989 said he had made “no real progress”.
Some efforts were made to laicise Walsh but ultimately he was found to be working with a group of scouts, tried to entice a boy into his car in Drumcondra and continued to go in and out of residential therapy where he admitted at one point to have abused 100 boys. Only in January 1996 was a decree issued by the Vatican confirming that Walsh had been “dismissed from the clerical state”.
The report concludes that the first complaint against Walsh was “investigated in a fairly desultory way” and that the failure by gardai to pursue a thorough criminal investigation into complaints in 1990 and 1992 was “unacceptable”.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said it was clear that Walsh’s crimes should have been dealt with earlier by Church authorities. He said:
These details.. are very frightening. He is an example of the classic serial paedophile on the same level as Brendan Smith.