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Bill Kenneally's 'forgotten victims' want to know how that 'horrible monster got away with it for so long'

The government has said it will launch an inquiry – but there is no start date as yet.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

THE DEPARTMENT OF Justice has said it does not have a start date for a Commission of Investigation into the abuse of a number of boys in Waterford by sports coach Bill Kenneally.

Last April, on foot of requests from the victims, the government said it would establish the inquiry into how the case was handled by State agencies including An Garda Síochána and the South Eastern Health Board.

Kenneally (66) was sentenced to 14 years in prison for abusing 10 boys in Waterford in the 1980s. Five of his victims rescinded their rights to anonymity to ensure Kenneally could be named during the court case.

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

While Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald told Cabinet about her intention to launch the inquiry and named a retired judge of the Circuit Court as its chair, it has not been formally established.

A stay was put on the investigation seven months ago and there is no definitive plan on when it could begin.

“Following careful consideration, and further to advice received from the Attorney General, the government, in a decision taken on 30 May 2017, agreed in principle that in light of the ongoing criminal investigations, it is not possible to establish a Commission of Investigation at this time but that 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, (retired judge of the Circuit Court) when the outstanding issues (including the ongoing criminal investigations and Mr. Kenneally’s appeal) are satisfactorily resolved,” the department told TheJournal.ie in a statement.

As a result, the Commission of Investigation has not been formally established, the Terms of Reference have not been drafted, nor has Judge Hickson commenced any work, preparatory or otherwise, as it would be inappropriate to do so at this juncture.

PastedImage-22818 Clockwise from top left: Paul Walsh, Barry Murphy, Jason Clancy, Colin Power

Lawyers for the victims have rejected the department’s reasoning, claiming that there could be no prejudicial effect on the pending appeal by Kenneally.

“The appeal … is one against sentence only. It therefore will not and cannot rehear any evidence relating to his guilt or innocence in respect of the offences,” solicitor Darragh Mackin told the current Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan in a letter dated 20 October.

“Therefore any assertion that the commission of investigation would have a prejudicial impact on his appeal against sentence is ill-founded and irrational.

“The risk is further minimised by the very fact that the presumption of a commission of investigation is that the evidence should be heard in private.”

He acknowledged the ongoing criminal investigations but noted that there “remains no live prosecutions”.

Therefore it is submitted that the decision as to whether such prejudice exists should not be grounded on the basis that there may be further prosections.
Mackin also made clear his concerns that a number of important witnesses to any inquiry have already passed away. 

In correspondence seen by TheJournal.ie, he notes that the death of a man in Waterford last year “brings the total to three people who have passed away who could potentially have given relevant evidence to the inquiry”.

PastedImage-5370 File picture of Kenneally in the 80s Source: With permission from RTE

The five men who have told their stories publicly about the abuse they suffered at the hands of Kenneally want to know “how that horrible monster got away with it for so long”.

“I believe this is Waterford’s big dirty secret,” says Barry Murphy in a hard-hitting video made as part of the campaign to get a green light for the inquiry.

Jason Clancy, who was abused by Kenneally more than 300 times during his teenage years, says he is disgusted by the current stalemate.

They weren’t handcuffed. They weren’t blindfolded. They weren’t tied to trees in forests. They weren’t abused. We were the ones abused.

All five say the decision to delay the probe has compounded their feelings about the abuse.

“Now we believe we’ve been let down by the government who promised us an inquiry and have now rowed back on that,” notes Colin Power.

“There’s no firm commitment as to when that will start.”

Clancy believes that there is a fear about what might emerge from any such inquiry, while Murphy describes himself and others as the ‘forgotten victims’.

“So many people have said to me, keep going, keep fighting. But it’s hard to keep fighting when you’re not getting help from anybody. We’ve been promised help. It’s not been there,” adds Paul Walsh.

Kenneally was arrested in 2013 but his victims believe gardaí and the South Eastern Health Board were aware of his abuse of children dating back to the 1980s.

In a letter to Mackin in February 2017, Fitzgerald confirmed that An Garda Síochána had “one historical record of reported offences committed by Bill Kenneally” and that related to “information provided by a parent and their child on 10 November 1987″. No formal complaint was made in that case. The contemporary investigation team only became aware of that information because he made admissions to them during a search of his premises in December 2012, following a complaint by Clancy.

The roles played by the Catholic Church and other local figures could also form part of any inquiry.

Clancy and the other four named victims have asked for a meeting with the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar as recently as 15 December.

Read: Victims of sex abuser urge Minister to green light inquiry into gardaí’s handling of case

More: ‘We were swept under the carpet 30 years ago’: Victim of prolific paedophile pleads for inquiry

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