From top: Bill Kenneally; Darragh Mackin; Jason Clancy, Colin Power, Paul Walsh and Barry Murphy
On RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke.
Mr O’Rourke interviewed Jason Clancy, who was abused by sports coach Bill Kenneally approximately 300 times over a three-and-a-half year period as a young teenager in Waterford in the 1980s.
Kenneally received a 14-year sentence in February 2016 after pleading guilty to ten sample counts of indecently assaulting ten boys between 1984 and 1987 – on foot of Mr Clancy coming forward in 2012.
Mr Clancy’s lawyer Darragh Mackin, of KRW Law in Belfast, and Labour leader Brendan Howlin were also interviewed as part of the segment.
The interview followed the making of a Facebook video by five men who were abused by Kenneally – Colin Power, Barry Murphy, Paul Walsh, Kevin Keating and Jason Clancy.
In the video, the men repeated their claim that certain gardai, the South Eastern Health Board, members of the Catholic Church, certain politicians and certain businessmen knew of the abuse and that it continued despite their knowledge of it.
They also repeated their call for the Commission of Inquiry – which the Department of Justice announced would take place on May 30, 2017 – to no longer be delayed.
Yesterday, the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan released a statement saying that, on foot of legal advice from the Attorney General, the commission cannot get underway as criminal investigations are ongoing (see full statement below).
In this morning’s interview, Mr Mackin rejected Mr Flanagan’s assertion that a Commission of Inquiry cannot run parallel to a criminal investigation, pointing out that the Leveson Inquiry, the Hillsborough Inquiry and the Grenfell Inquiry have occurred while a criminal investigation was/is ongoing.
He also said that the Government has not made it clear what could be prejudicial.
Also during the interview, Mr Howlin said four witnesses in relation to Kenneally have died in the past 12 months.
Mr Clancy also said he’d like to meet the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan together in person so they can discuss the matter face to face.
From the interview…
Sean O’Rourke: “Bring us back, remind people, some of whom may not be familiar with your story, how you came in contact with Bill Kenneally and what he did.”
Jason Clancy: “I was unfortunate enough to live around the corner from Bill Kenneally where I grew up. The neighbours used to have a Sunday morning soccer, friendly soccer matches, every Sunday morning. I was invited up by a good neighbour of ours when I was about 13 to play. And Bill Kenneally played there and that’s when I initially came in contact with him.”
O’Rourke: “And how quickly did the abuse start?”
Clancy: “The abuse started, I’d say, about six months from when I met him.”
O’Rourke: “And it went on for how long?”
Clancy: “My abuse went on for, I think about three and a half years. It started just before my 14th birthday and it went on then until I was about 16/17.”
O’Rourke: “And we know that there were other boys abused by him aswell. There were the 10 sample cases that I mentioned [earlier]. And were other boys abused at the same time as you were, or along with you?”
Clancy: “Oh yeah, I mean I was abused in the company of other boys, we were abused together and then also individually.”
O’Rourke: “Yeah, and you spoke on Prime Time, just about for instance, you were a tennis player, you were good at sport.”
O’Rourke: “You won a tennis tournament.”
Clancy: “That’s right, yeah.”
O’Rourke: “And you missed out on the presentation of the prize?”
Clancy: “Yeah, what happened was, I was playing in the Kilkenny Open and I was in the final and I won the final but Bill Kenneally arrived along, when I was coming off the court, and just said to me: ‘Get in the car’. And he drove me down to a forest area near the tennis club and abused me quite badly. And then I was brought back to the tennis club and the presentation was over. The lady who, I still remember her name, the lady who was organising the tournament, she ate me for having such bad manners that I didn’t turn up for the presentation and the photographs and so forth. She just handed me the trophy.”
“Like, I mean, I was just standing there and, you know, the abuse, I was probably used to the abuse at that stage but, you know, for somebody to just stand there and just say ‘you’re a disgrace to your tennis club’ and ‘it’s such bad manners’. And it stays with me to this day, you know?”
“I was standing there in semen-soaked underpants and I couldn’t explain to her like, that, I just couldn’t do do it, you know?”
O’Rourke: “How long was it, Jason, before you were able to talk about this? I mean, for instance, did you talk with the other fellas who were being abused at the time?”
Clancy: “You know, we never actually spoke about it. We just never spoke about it, we just couldn’t, you know?”
O’Rourke: “And then you, just in the last few years, in 2012, you came forward and you made the disclosures and you waived your anonymity in court and, presumably, as adults, you were able to talk about it?”
Clancy: “As adults, yes, I was able to talk about it. I mean, what happened was I found out he was involved in a basketball club with young children, young boys. So I just knew, the day came, I had to do something, I have young children myself. So I think the decision was made for me to come forward. But I knew I had to do it, for the greater good, I had to do the right thing and I contacted the gardai.”
O’Rourke: “Now, he was sentenced for his crimes and the Government then announced last May that there would be this Commission of Inquiry but they’ve put a stay on that. It’s not happening. We’ll talk about the reasons why it’s not happening in a minute. But why is it important to you and to other victims that this commission carry out its work?.”
Clancy: “The information I suppose that has been gathered, you know, we know now that Bill Kenneally was a paedophile in Waterford city for a number of decades, in Waterford city. We are aware of that. Authorities knew about it. There’s a litany of examples that we can go to but we are fully aware, the Government are aware that gardai knew about the abuse; the South Eastern Health Board knew about the abuse; the Catholic Church knew about the abuse; politicians knew about the abuse and a number of business people in Waterford city were aware of the abuse.”
O’Rourke: “And obviously, the Government was persuaded that these allegations are so serious, and the situation, as to warrant this Commission of Inquiry but Charlie Flanagan, the Minister [for Justice], has put a statement out yesterday explaining that because there are inquiries still continuing into other cases, they can’t go ahead with this commission.”
Clancy: “Sean, the problem we have with that. The gardai confirmed to me that, in the course of their investigation – when I made my complaint – they ended up having to contact in excess of 100 people to give them the opportunity to make a statement and come forward. Now, out of that, 54 people made a statement and, from those 54 people, 10 people came forward, including myself.
“What Charlie Flanagan is saying, basically, is that there are three victims who came forward last year and the Government don’t want any interference with their case against Bill Kenneally and, as a result, they are putting a stay on the inquiry or the Commission of Investigation.”
O’Rourke: “Ok, actually, it might be the moment, at this stage, to talk to the solicitor, your solicitor Darragh Mackin.”
O’Rourke: “Good morning to you. You’re on the line from Belfast.”
Darragh Mackin: “Good morning, Sean.”
O’Rourke: “Can I just ask you to deal with the particular legal explanation that’s given by Charlie Flanagan in his statement, he says: ‘With an obligation on the commission, to disclose relevant information in its possession to a person giving evidence to the commission, this might compromise evidence that such persons might give in criminal proceedings, thus jeopardising the rights of the victims to having their complaints investigated and prosecuted and any potential accused to a fair trial.’ So that’s two ‘mights’ and one ‘potential’. The point is: they don’t want to prejudice any possibility of a fair trial.”
Mackin: “Yes, the starting point, from our perspective, is that we don’t accept that, we don’t accept them reasons whatsoever. We don’t accept them for two primary concerns. The first one is that this is not the reasons in their entirety.
“We were originally given the reason that the inquiry could not begin due to the fact that there was an ongoing appeal against sentence. We rejected that assertion – given that it had absolutely no prejudice on a public inquiry.
“And the second basis is the one to which you refer – the idea that by the very fact that there are ongoing criminal investigations that that would in some way jeopardise or prejudice the inquiry. We say that is not correct and we say that it can be dealt with in very simple terms: public inquiries by their very genesis can have mechanisms to deal with and to prevent any element of prejudice on any other investigation.
“For example, the inquiry will, as we’ve seen in Charleton [the Disclosures Tribunal], can have a modular format where specific modules can be put to the end of the inquiry to prevent or to allow for any other investigations to occur in the meantime.
“Secondly, there is a huge raft of preparation required in this inquiry such as taking witness statements from Jason and the other victims who have already come forward and who’ve already spoken publicly about their case. That itself will require quite considerable time and can be done, it can be done in private, in the lead-up to the inquiry getting off the ground.
“So we say there are very, very good mechanisms that can be put in place and that are regularly put in place to ensure that there is no prejudice to any ongoing investigation.”
O’Rourke: “Charlie Flanagan’s statement says that it would be entirely inappropriate for this Government to take any action which risks seriously compromising those investigations and/or criminal proceedings.”
Mackin: “Well the starting point is this Sean: We have a situation therefore that an inquiry investigating the failures by the gardai is now being delayed by the very ones to which it’s being investigated.
“Because we have a situation where, one year ago, a further victim came forward, gave his complaint to the gardai, he hadn’t heard anything since, until I think it was 20 minutes after the story broke on RTE, that he then heard from the gardai again.
“In fact, many victims were unaware that the file had even been passed to the DPP until the public statement by Mr Flanagan.”
O’Rourke: “Yeah, but I mean, these are live investigations, they’re ongoing in respect of a number of such cases – I’m again, quoting from the statement. Files have been sent to the DPP in relation to several cases. Directions are awaited.”
Mackin: “Let’s deal with this then, let’s deal with this very simple basis, the proposition that, because there’s an ongoing prosecution, let’s look at that. Leveson, the Leveson Inquiry in London, the Hillsborough Inquiry, the Grenfell Inquiry – three of the biggest public inquiries probably in the international scale, all three occurred at the exact same time as an ongoing criminal investigation. There is absolutely no reason, there’s absolutely no reason whatsoever that this inquiry cannot take place at the same time as a criminal investigation.
“And we also must bear in mind that, at this stage, there has been no decision to prosecute or any decision to open up a criminal trial, so as it stands the inquiry, to which is being postponed, to which relevant evidence is being lost, let’s not forget that people have died since the commission of this inquiry in May 2017, let’s not forget that people are dying, that evidence is being lost, on the basis that there may be further criminal prosecutions.
“The reality is there can be steps, there can be mechanisms put in place to ensure that there is no prejudice and this boils down to the fact that the victims have no confidence in these reasons, they’ve no confidence in the process and they’ve no confidence in the situation that they are now being held to task, they are now being faced with obstacle after obstacle in an opaque system where they can’t even challenge the legal basis, other than to say it is prejudicial. There is no detail given as to what prejudice that would be.”
Listen back in full here
In his statement, Mr Flanagan said:
“In the public interest, I wish to clarify matters relating to the Government decision in May to establish a Commission of Investigation into the handling of specific sexual abuse allegations in Waterford.
In responding to the very serious allegations about the handling of specific sexual abuse allegations in Waterford, the Government decided on 30 May 2017 to establish a Commission of Investigation. However, in deciding on the timing of such a Commission, the Government was obliged to take into account legal advice received from the Attorney General’s Office.
The legal issues that prevented the Commission from being established at this time related to additional complaints of sexual abuse received by An Garda Síochána.
With an obligation on the Commission to disclose relevant information in its possession to a person giving evidence to the Commission, this might compromise evidence that such persons might give in criminal proceedings, thus jeopardising the rights of the victims to having their complaints investigated and prosecuted and any potential accused to a fair trial.
It would be entirely inappropriate for this Government to take any action which risks seriously compromising those investigations and/or criminal proceedings.
Criminal investigations are ongoing in respect of a number of such cases and files have been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to several cases and directions are awaited. Any victims coming forward with allegations of sexual abuse are entitled to have their claims fully investigated and, where appropriate, prosecuted.
An Garda Síochána have given assurances that they will ensure that any victims who have reported allegations are contacted by a Garda liaison officer to ensure they are kept informed of any developments.
Therefore, even if a Commission were to be established now, its work would be seriously delayed to allow for the completion of outstanding investigations and prosecutions. This would not be in the public interest, or in the best interest of those directly affected.
As a result, the Government decided in May 2017 that a Commission of Investigation would be established when the outstanding legal issues are finalised. This decision was communicated to KRW Law by phone by an official in my Department following the Government meeting and has been reiterated in subsequent correspondence to them.
I continue to monitor developments in this case closely.
I wish to stress that any complainant who is not satisfied with the manner in which their allegations were dealt with by An Garda Síochána, has the option of contacting the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Office (GSOC) which is the independent body charged with receiving complaints from the public concerning members of An Garda Síochána.
Contact can be made with GSOC at their offices at 150 Upper Abbey Street, Dublin 1 and by telephone on Lo-Call 1890 600800.
Yesterday: ‘Waterford’s Big Dirty Secret’
Pic: Saoirse McGarrigle