From top: B ill Keneally; From left: Paul Walsh, human rights lawyer Darragh Mackin, Colin Power anod Jason Clancy
Further to last night’s Would You Believe? documentary, called Beyond Redemption?, presented by Mike Peelo, about the Christian-based Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) programme in Canada, and now Ireland, in which sex offenders receive support from an ‘inner circle’ of volunteers – to help them reintegrate into society after prison.
On South East Radio, Paul Walsh, who was one of the boys abused by convicted and jailed paedophile Bill Kenneally, spoke to broadcaster Alan Corcoran.
Readers will recall how the victims of Kenneally are calling for a Commission of Investigation into who knew about the abuse and who “turned a blind eye” as they say senior gardaí, members of Fianna Fáil, the South Eastern Health Board and the Catholic Church all knew Kenneally was abusing boys but failed to stop him.
In 1987, Kenneally admitted to gardaí that he was handcuffing, blind-folding and sexually abusing boys, but he was let walk free. He was convicted earlier this year after victim Jason Clancy came forward in 2012.
From this morning’s interview on South East Radio…
Alan Corcoran: “What did you make of it, Paul?”
Paul Walsh: “Well, I sat down and tried to watch it with an open mind which was hard to do. In the beginning, I said, all right, we’ll watch it. Anybody looking at it, who wouldn’t have experienced any abuse would have said ‘oh well, yes, leave them back into the community’ but there’s tens of thousands of people that were abused. And it would be wonderful to be able to see them come back to the community and know that they wouldn’t reoffend but, taking a chance like that, I don’t know because, if they reoffend there’s more lives put at, as I said, having to, going to bed with thoughts that we [him and other victims] have. And like where is, there seems to be a lot of help, you know, the offenders seem to be the one to be helped. There’s 400-450 in prison still but sure there’s tens of thousands of victims. And I don’t remember anybody coming to me, even since we came forth, to see if we wanted any counselling, any support to be paid for. I don’t hear of any and these men are getting, what?, €71,000 a year [the cost of the COSA programme in Ireland]. I think it all swings on the side of the offender, again.”
Corcoran: “I’ll just bring more information in summary of what was viewed last night. There’s also Circles of Support apparently operating in Ireland too. In an article, in yesterday’s Irish Times, court reporter Conor Gallagher reported: “Nearly 50 people have volunteered to support and monitor convicted sex offenders in the community, as part of a Probation Service programme which has substantially reduced reoffending in other countries. The Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) programme, which was launched in Dublin last year, is designed to reintegrate medium to high-risk sex offenders into the community by including them in an informal social support circle of volunteers.” So by all accounts, it’s being tried here in Ireland, what’s your view of that, Paul?”
Walsh: “I wonder how many of the 50 people that are helping out, were any of them abused themselves. I wouldn’t imagine that they’d like to be helping out. As I said, I think, like if we knew it was going to work and everybody deserves a second chance but like history tells us, from looking into it more, that they do reoffend. And, like a drug addict, that might end up taking drugs again. The drugs I don’t really mind, it’s another child abused, it’s another life ruined really, so…I’m not too sure about it. At the moment, I’m still…”
Corcoran: “You’re not reassured in any way? Or, even assured a little bit?”
Walsh: “I’m not really, no. No. Because of our own case, the amount of times, I mean, that this man was allowed get away with it. I can’t, bring him back into the community? No. I don’t think so.”
Corcoran: “Having been through it and being very badly affected by it, what would you see as an alternative to what was suggested in that TV programme last night?”
Walsh: “Well, more support for the victims. I mean that report came across more in favour there for the offenders and nearly feeling sorry for them.”
Corcoran: “You felt it wasn’t balanced?”
Walsh: “No, it wasn’t balanced. It wasn’t balanced. And to be honest, there wasn’t much mention of victims, that poor mother was the only one, but there’s ten thousands, thousands of victims out there, you know, and again I can only reiterate on my own case. But there’s not a lot of support there. No one’s come to my friends since this has all broke out and asked, ‘are ye all right, lads’. I mean and it was the first time that my brothers and sisters and family knew about it and they were ringing me saying, ‘are you all right?’. They were affected. So, you know, it’s widespread. I don’t see much, again last night, the whole thing, to me, was ‘oh god love the offenders’, you know, ‘they need help’. ”
Corcoran: “So, for you, did you find it offensive then because of this…”
Walsh: “I did, yeah..I did, I found it very…now, I know they’re trying to bring it across, it’s a documentary of the offenders but it was too one-sided and..if you get them to the community and know they would’t reoffend again…safer and away from children, but like, in our circumstances, where our basketball coach was allowed coach for another 30 years, you know, and people knew what he was after doing. So, it doesn’t give you much faith in the system, at the moment anyway.”
Corcoran: “So what you’re calling for today is, after what you’ve been through, you need, you reckon that people like you need further counselling and that this is an area that needs to be addressed immediately.”
Walsh: “Definitely, yes, definitely. And there needs to be, an investigation has to be done to see why our particular matter was allowed roam free and an investigation because there was people in counselling with the HSE and the guards were never informed about it. You know, it’s all just odd, it stinks really, to be honest. The whole thing needs to be changed.”
Previously: Grooming The Nation