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Former Belvedere headmaster told inquiry allegations of abuse were not properly investigated

The headmaster “believed he was acting in the interests of the institution in protecting it from scandal”.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: Leon Farrell/RollingNews.ie

A FORMER HEADMASTER at Belvedere College told an inquiry that credible allegations of sexual abuse made against Fr Joseph Marmion in the 1970s were not properly investigated or brought to the attention of the gardaí.

The Jesuit-ordered inquiry examined allegations of sexual abuse against Fr Marmion during his time teaching at the Dublin school in the 1970s.

The school’s former headmaster, Fr Noel Barber told the inquiry that the question of reporting the matter to the gardaí “did not arise in any conversation at that time”. 

According to an extract of the unpublished report read on RTÉ’s Liveline programme and confirmed to The Journal by the Order, it was understood by Father Barber at the time that “the matter had been brought to the attention of the college authorities in order that they would deal with it”.

The extract added that Fr Barber and two colleagues were concerned “that what had happened ought not to become known”, and he “believed he was acting in the interests of the institution in protecting it from scandal”.

In March the Jesuits in Ireland publicised Fr Marmion’s name to encourage people who may have suffered abuse to come forward.

The Order said at the time that the priest, who died in 2000, had “sexually, emotionally and physically” abused pupils at Belvedere College in Dublin in the 1970s.

In a statement this week the Order acknowledged that its handling of the Fr Marmion case was “shameful”,

“What has emerged in terms of the story of Marmion’s abuse, and subsequent handling of his case is shameful for us Jesuits and must be very difficult for survivors to read,” it said.

Decisions were made that should never have been made and decisions that should have been made were not. There are no excuses. We are profoundly sorry for the terrible wrongs that were done to survivors.

“We again ask forgiveness of all those impacted by Joseph Marmion’s abuse. We understand that words are never enough, no matter how sincerely meant or felt.

“But it is our deep hope that this first step in owning our story, shameful as it is, and acknowledging fully the role we played as an Order in allowing this abuse to happen and go on for so long, will be the beginning of a new way for us of taking responsibility for our failings,” the statement added.

Last month, a number of former pupils of the school alleged that another priest – Fr Brendan Kearney SJ – who taught at the fee-paying secondary school assaulted them in the late 1970s and 1980s.

A spokesperson for the Jesuits told The Journal that the report is “still ongoing and confidential”. The spokesperson added that no decision to publish has been made at this stage, though it may be.

The Order invited anybody impacted by the statement it released to contact the restorative practitioners:

Catherine O’Connell – Catherine.oconnell@mu.ie – 0879936237

Barbara Walshe – barbarawalshe@live.com – 0868186639

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Saoirse Fox, Child Safeguarding Manager in the Jesuit Safeguarding Office – emailsafeguardin@jesuit.ie – 089 264 4400

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Céimin Burke

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