Fit to Print?


Niall Meehan Eddie Gorman

Niall Meehan

LAST WEEK the Church of Ireland (CoI) and the Scouts Association forked out £100,000 in damages to Eddie Gorman, who was abused by Rev WG (Bill) Neely in Mount Merrion Church, Belfast. Neely also abused children as a scout leader. The scouts expelled Neely in 1976 but the CoI did not – far from it. He was silently transferred to rural Tipperary, where he officiated at Sunday school and served on education committees.

The abuser rebuilt his reputation and was elected a canon of Dublin’s St Patrick’s Cathedral – appropriately, since St Patrick’s also pursued an abuse cover-up (see The Phoenix 25/8/23) – and founded and ran the Church of Ireland Historical Society (CoIHS).

CoI synods praised his work, while bishops at the time kept quiet – whatever they knew about Neely, they knew better than to interrupt these exercises in hypocrisy. Instead, the bishops approved CoI Safeguarding Trust reports. They may have blushed inwardly at media mention of the Vatican’s handling of clerical abuse but the CoI bishops need not worry about a similar intrusion.

KRWLAW, Gorman’s solicitors, issued a statement on the Neely settlement. It was picked up by the Belfast Telegraph online, although was ignored in print. David McClay, the current Bishop of Down and Dromore, said in his press statement that the law prevented naming Neely or his victim. McClay was “shocked and saddened to hear of the pain and hurt inflicted… by the late Church of Ireland rector” etc etc. Belfast’s Sunday Life also picked up the story and that was that.

Down south it was a case of ‘Abuse? A priest you say. Oh, a Protestant priest. Forget it’, despite the Tipperary connection.

The Irish Times did not report the story – but the paper is consistent. It also refused to report that the CoIHS lied about Neely’s involvement: web pages deleted Neely’s name on a society academic prize. The paper also refuses to report the sectarian nature of a Government inquiry into educational abuse that excludes Protestant victims.

The paper rebuffed Dr Niall Meehan of Griffith College, who sent letters, statements and notes in the past year on Neely, the CoIHS and the inquiry.

Undaunted, he wrote again on Monday: “Unfortunately, no coverage of the Neely settlement today. The legal firm representing Eddie Gorman… says there are three more cases involving the CoI in the pipeline. Do you think the paper will ever get around to covering them?”

Fat chance. The paper, like the bishops, is asleep.

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