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Progress on Bill Kenneally inquiry as survivors meet Justice Minister

The Commission of Investigation could start as early as this summer.

PastedImage-58335 Clockwise from top left: Paul Walsh, Barry Murphy, Jason Clancy, Colin Power

A NUMBER OF Bill Kenneally’s victims had an important meeting with Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan this week as they try to progress an inquiry into how their abuse was allowed to happen for such a sustained period of time in Waterford in the 1980s.

Both sides said described the meeting as “constructive” and a public inquiry – which has been stalled – looks likely to start at some point this year.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, the Department of Justice said:

Yesterday, the Minister met with a number of the survivors of abuse committed by Bill Kenneally, together with their legal representative. It was a very constructive meeting and work is ongoing to finalise the Terms of Reference and allow the Commission to begin its work at the earliest possible opportunity.

It is understood there was a robust and honest exchange of views around what the Terms of Reference for the investigation should be and that it could start as early as this summer.

“We were all very pleased afterwards with the outcome and have every confidence that the Minister is fully behind this investigation beginning as soon as possible,” said survivor Colin Power, one of five men who waived their right to anonymity after Kenneally, a sports coach, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for abusing 10 boys in Waterford in the 1980s.

They claim the State failed to protect them, believing a number of the abusive incidents could have been prevented.

Last May, then-Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald told Cabinet about her intention to launch a public inquiry and named a retired judge of the Circuit Court as its chair. However, it was never formally established. A stay was put on the investigation and the Department said, “The question of establishing a Commission will be kept under ongoing legal review and that it is intended to establish a Commission, under the Chairmanship of the Hon Barry Hickson.”

PastedImage-86125 File picture of Kenneally in the 80s Source: With permission from RTE

The Terms of Reference will not be published as further discussions need to be held, and other technical aspects of the inquiry dealt with. They will likely cover the garda handling of any complaints in relation to Kenneally, as well as how the former South Eastern Health Board managed the situation. Examining what other prominent members of the city and the Catholic Church knew will also be probed.

On Thursday, Damien Tiernan reported on RTÉ News that Tusla has located files from the 1980s which reference Kenneally. Two years ago, when reporting for PrimeTime, Tiernan was told no reference to Kenneally or records on him were found during a search of files dating from the 1980s and 1990s.

It is now understood that the files that have emerged were written in 1989 after a number of victims sought counselling and named their abuser as Bill Kenneally.

Asked a number of questions about the newly found files, Tusla told TheJournal.ie it does not comment on individual cases. However, it added that the agency will cooperate with the Commission of Investigation, as appropriate.

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