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Michael O'Connor

Leading Irish church abuse figure once claimed he was never abused

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Michael O'Connor

A major row has broken out between leaders of sex abuse survivors in Ireland after questions about the extent, if any, of the abuse that one leading figure suffered have surfaced.

The former mayor of Clonmel, Michael O'Brien, became a national figure when he spoke out on Irish television about the abuse.

However, a tape has surfaced where he denied he had ever been abused and actually praised the Rosminian Order priests who raised him.

At stake is the $1 billion in compensation for victims of the abuse, which the Irish state has set aside.

Another leader of the abused children group, Christine Buckley, has now stated she has "very deep reservations and concerns" about the interview and that she questions what O'Brien has claimed to date.

"I couldn't doubt any victim of institutional abuse nor have I ever questioned anybody before. This is the first time I have done this," she said. "Being in denial is being in denial. But why be so vociferous in protecting the Rosminian order on the radio?"

During the 1999 interview on a local radio station, the Sunday Tribune reported that O'Brien expressed sympathy for victims of sexual abuse who suffered at the hands of the notorious Rosminian abuser at Ferryhouse, Brother Sean Barry.

 "But I must say, and I have to say it here and now, because I had to meet my family when this came out. And say it never happened to me, I never seen it happening, I never heard of it happening in my seven years in Ferryhouse. I never seen or heard of it.

"We were left there to those brothers and those priests to become our parents, and look after us. And as far as I'm concerned, 99.9 percent of them done a good job ... out of every group, no matter what organization you're in, you'll find bad eggs, Ferryhouse is my home. And I will defend it to the end as long as I live, because I was reared by them.”

Buckley stated she had been given a copy of O'Brien's comments and said if she had known about them she would not have accepted a national award with him last month.

O'Brien strongly defended the interview to the Sunday Tribune.

"The reason I didn't say anything about sexual abuse on local radio was that I didn't want my family or anybody to know about it. I didn't want to talk about it … I had been mayor of Clonmel and I didn't want anyone to know about it," he said.

"I want nothing off anyone out of this. I said that to the Taoiseach, I said it everywhere I went. I want nothing off you. I said it to the bishops, personally I want nothing off of anybody. But I'll fight on my back for former residents; I do want the former residents set up. I do not want money out of it. I never wanted money out of it. And that is a fact."

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