Athlone native Bishop John Kirby.
The Bishop of Clonfert, Athlone native Dr John Kirby, has denied a national newspaper's claims that he was aware a priest whom he had moved because of abuse allegations went on to abuse more children in his new parish.
A report on Monday by The Irish Times' religious affairs correspondent, Patsy McGarry, stated that the former cleric described as 'Priest A' in a recent child safeguarding report by the National Board for Safeguarding Children was moved by Bishop Kirby from a parish after it emerged that he had abused a child there.
The Irish Times article stated that the priest was moved to another parish in 1990. It said he continued to abuse children, both in the second parish and elsewhere in the diocese, and that he disclosed details of this to Bishop Kirby and the statutory authorities while serving a sentence in Arbour Hill prison in the mid-90s for the sexual abuse of a child.
On Monday afternoon, Bishop Kirby issued a statement refuting the main allegations in the Irish Times story.
He said the claim by The Irish Times that he had "knowledge or suspicion that 'Priest A' continued to abuse children subsequent to my learning of his conduct in October 1990" and that such abuse occurred in the two parishes was "incorrect".
"Contrary to what is stated in today's Irish Times, I am not aware of an acknowledgement by 'Priest A' that he abused any child subsequent to October 1990, the date when I first learned of his sexual abuse of a child.
He also said he was "not in receipt of any complaint and I have neither knowledge nor suspicion" that 'Priest A' abused a child in either of the two parishes after October 1990.
The Bishop said he had invited the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church to conduct its review of the Diocese of Clonfert in the knowledge that he "would be found wanting".
"I have accepted any criticisms of my past actions and omissions and have apologised for them. I do so again today. I am committed to ensuring the implementation of all of its recommendations and to ensuring best practice in the safeguarding of children in the Diocese of Clonfert at all times," said the Bishop.
"I do not intend to comment any further on the specific cases which arose in the diocese. The complete records of the diocese were made available to the National Board as part of its review.
All complaints and suspicions of child sexual abuse known to me are also known to An Garda Síochána and to the Health Service Executive."
During an interview on RTE Radio One on Monday evening, the Irish Times journalist, Patsy McGarry, said he and his newspaper were standing over his story. He said he had "at least" three sources for the claims made in his report, and that he had "no doubt" about their credibility.
"We're confident about this story, and we stand over this story," he said.
Mr McGarry was asked by RTE presenter Mary Wilson if he expected Bishop Kirby to take legal action over the report. "I don't know. But we're prepared for that eventuality," he replied.
Bishop Kirby is originally from Baylough, Athlone. The Diocese of Clonfert is among the smallest in Ireland. Its 24 parishes include some in the Westmeath Independent region.