A brother and sister are currently attempting to sue Ireland’s top cleric Cardinal Sean Brady and Bishop of Kilmore Leo O’Reilly arising from abuse suffered at the hands of clerical child abuser Father Brendan Smyth.
Smyth was the most notorious abuser in the Irish church system. He abused well over 100 children in Ireland and the United States.
The Irish Times reports that the pair will now have to prove that a settlement of a previous case does not prevent them from bringing their legal action.
The President of Dublin’s High Court has ordered the pair to prove that their settlement of a previous case in Belfast against Smyth’s religious order doesn’t prevent them from taking another action.
The paper says High Court president Justice Nicholas Kearns has directed a trial on November 28th of a preliminary issue as to whether the previous settlement of proceedings brought by the siblings from Belfast was ‘the subject of a prior accord and satisfaction.’
The report says the siblings are suing Cardinal Brady and the Bishop of Kilmore, Leo O’Reilly - as successor to the previous bishop of Kilmore, Francis McKiernan - alleging negligence over allegedly failing to take any or any adequate steps to ensure Smyth did not continue to perpetrate sexual assaults on them in the 1970s and 1980s.
They are suing Cardinal Brady in his personal capacity over his role as part-time secretary to Bishop McKiernan in 1975 during the investigation of complaints about Smyth, since deceased.
They claim Cardinal Brady and McKiernan failed to tell police of singed complaints against Smyth regarding his assaults on other children arising from two meetings in 1975.
Their claim says the defendants owed a specific duty of care in circumstances where one of the children interviewed at the meetings identified the brother as being a potential victim of Smyth.
The report says the case against both defendants was brought in 2011 in the High Court, 13 years after separate cases taken by the complainants in Belfast were settled.
In the Belfast cases, the brother and sister sued Smyth’s religious order, the Norbertines, of Kilnacrott Abbey, Ballyjamesduff, Cavan, for failing to take a number of steps. They included warning parents about Smyth or stopping him from operating as a bona fide priest under the auspices of the order.
Lawyers for Bishop O’Reilly have asked the High Court to direct the hearing of a preliminary issue before the main proceedings against the two clerics goes ahead.
The Irish Times says counsel asked the court to first determine whether the two are barred from taking the action because of the Belfast cases in 1998.
Cardinal Brady was not represented but is supporting this application.
The bishop’s legal team want the court to rule whether that 1998 settlement means this latest case cannot go ahead.
The report says counsel contends that settlement was stated to be ‘full and final’ for all claims by the siblings relating to the abuse carried out by Smyth.
Counsel says the court should also decide whether this action amounted to an abuse of process, fell outside the time periods set by the Statute of Limitations and/or should be struck out due to alleged inordinate and inexcusable delay.
The lawyer for the siblings said it was accepted the case relates to the same sexual abuse covered by the Northern Irish case, but contended the causes of action against these defendants was different from the action taken against the Norbertine order.
This arose because certain information came to light in 2010 through the media as to Cardinal Brady’s knowledge in 1975 and that information was effectively concealed from the pair before the 1998 settlement, counsel said.
It was also argued the settlement agreements indicated no intention to discharge the defendants from the claims in the current proceedings.