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Wednesday 22 November 2017

From our archives

Diocese faces crisis over abuse claims

March 1995

The Catholic Church in the Diocese of Ferns was at the centre of controversy this week amid claims that a curate in the county was being investigated following claims of child sex abuse.

The issue was heightened by suggestions that a letter of apology was written by Bishop Brendan Comiskey to the alleged abuse victim at the time.

Dr Comiskey was out of the country when the reports of the incident first broke in the Irish Times and Sunday Independent over the weekend.

The allegations were given weight when South East Radio, which is one-quarter owned by the Bishop and the Diocese, repeated all the allegations in news bulletins early in the week.

However, efforts by this newspaper on Tuesday to contact Fr Walter Forde, the official spokesman for Bishop Comiskey, failed.

His office said he was away for the day and was unlikely to be contactable.

On Tuesday evening, Monsignor Richard Breen, the Parish Priest of Bunclody, who is the Vicar General of the Diocese and who has had to deal with the controversy in the absence of the Bishop, said he had been instructed to make no further comment on the matter.

It was subsequently learned that legal advice had forced the Diocese to order a clampdown on all comment in relation to the matter.

The reported allegations are said to have shocked many clergy, who were completely unaware of any complaints, and they are likely to cause deep distress within the Diocese.

On Wednesday morning, Dr Comiskey, prior to leaving his residence for a Confirmation ceremony, issued a short statement saying that it should be appreciated that in view of the fact that a Garda investigation is taking place, it would be quite wrong for him to make any comment on the matter.

Bishop's praise for departing curate

March 1995

The Bishop of Ferns, Dr Brendan Comiskey, has praised one of the highest profile curates in the Diocese, who has left his parish on 'administrative leave'.

The Bishop said he was sure that the people of Ballymurn would join him in thanking Fr Sean Fortune and expressing appreciation for all the good which he had accomplished.

Dr Comiskey made his remarks in a letter read at weekend masses in Ballymurn by the Parish Priest of Crossabeg, Fr Michael McCarthy.

The congregation was told that Fr Fortune had sought to be relieved of his post and would not be returning to Ballymurn.

Fr Fortune has been one of the highest profile curates in the diocese, being very involved in many activities including adult education and further studies.

He was also closely associated with the broadcasting media and presented many programmes on South East Radio for the Christian Media Trust.

In Ballymurn itself, he established several new committees and was responsible for securing substantial FAS funding for the area.

In the absence of a full-time curate in Ballymurn the Parish Priest, Fr McCarthy, is to take over directly as administrator of all matters, spiritual and temporal, pertaining to the Ballymurn curacy.

Sale was not what they bargained for

March 1990

A Kilmore lobster fisherman hadn't so much egg as icing on his face after a comical visit to Dublin for an RNLI sale a few weeks ago.

After spotting an advertisement in a newspaper for the Lifeboat Institute's 'annual sale', the fisherman remembered hearing in the past that great bargains on spare boat and engine parts could sometimes be had from the RNLI.

He approached two fellow boat owners and together they arranged to make a special trip to Dublin. They tied up their boats for the day, rounded up some £1200 between them, and drove up to the sale.

On arrival at the venue, their faces dropped. The tables were not lined out as they expected with engine bits and boat accessories. Instead, there were cakes - dozens, if not hundreds of them - as Madeira cakes, chocolate cakes, fruit cakes and sponge cakes, all freshly baked, were put out on sale to raise money for the RNLI.

The disgusted trio promptly left, without even buying a cake, and feeling like right eejits. When they returned home and confessed their mistake, three households shook with laugther.

The story is still raising titters too in fishing circles in South Wexford, and all the poor sale-goers can do is grin and bear it.

Coffin present as court take places

March 1982

There was a coffin in the courtroom for last week's entire sitting of Shillelagh District Court, and it led Justice Dermot Dunleavy to remark that it was his first time to preside at a court that had a coffin it.

Shillelagh Court hearings are heard in the local community hall and the coffin stood on the stage behind where the judge's bench is normally set up, meaning that all in court (except the Justice himself) were facing it. It was not visible throughout the hearing though, as just before matters started, a Garda pulled across the curtain at the front of the stage.

The Justice described it as 'a unique situation' and jokingly inquired from Garda Inspector Noel Gallagher, 'what is the corpse charged with?'

The Inspector explained that the coffin was just a 'prop' in a play which had been held in the hall. Local Garda Michael Hearne further explained that the coffin was being used in a 'Dracula' sketch in a 'Tops of the Parish' show.

'Fact is stranger than fiction,' remarked the Justice.

Justice Dunleavey then also quipped 'last year, there was a play here called 'Rough Justice'. I hope that wasn't a comment on my court!'

Dispute over how many passengers

March 1984

A man who was said to have had nine passengers in his car when stopped by Gardai in Wexford last year disputed this assertion when he came before the District Court last week. [NAME WITHELD] insisted he had only eight.

He was nevertheless fined a total of £170 and disqualified from driving for three years after being convicted on charges arising from the incident, which included drunken driving.

Garda Dan Redmond told the court that when he saw the car, 'it was almost scraping along the ground.'

'There were three people squashed onto the passenger seat, and six more in the back,' he said.

Defendant disputed this and said there were only two on the passenger seat, as he told Garda Redmond to 'get your facts right'.

The court further heard that defendant had been drinking in a local pub and 'some' people had asked for a lift home. As they got into the car, other came along and also asked, and defendant took them in too. Defendant had previous convictions for dangerous driving and driving without insurance.

District Justice Dunleavy said this was a very reckless thing to do, regardless of whether there were eight or nine passengers, and it was clear that defendant had 'no regard for the rules of the road'.

From the adverts

March 1977

With the customary 'Irish Invasion' of Cheltenham taking place this week for the annual National Hunt Festival, it's interesting to note the prices from 40 years for a trip to the Festival via ferry.

In March 1977, Sealink advertised that four people sharing a car could have a return ferry crossing and three nights B&B each for just £52 per person - and remember, this was back when there was just three days of racing.

The other option was to travel on a luxury coach, where all travel, and four nights of dinner and B&B accommodation would cost just £82.

The advert also noted 'duty free alcohol and other goods can be bought on both crossings.'

Wexford People

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