Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Louth councillors to write to Christian Brothers over sexual abuse litigation strategy

Louth councillors to write to Christian Brothers over sexual abuse  litigation strategy |

Louth County Councillors will write to the leadership of the Christian Brothers to condemn the order’s controversial litigation strategy for dealing with alleged cases of sexual abuse.

However, an attempt to rescind the Freedom of Drogheda bestowed upon former Christian Brothers leader, Edmund Garvey in 1997, will not be dealt with until the next Borough District of Drogheda meeting in September.

After a number of aborted attempts to raise the issue at County Council level in recent months, Cllr Maeve Yore’s motion was dealt with at the July meeting, however, with a crucial amendment proposed by Drogheda Independent Councillor, Kevin Callan.

Cllr Yore’s original motion read: “That Louth County Council supports all victims of child sexual abuse and condemns the current litigation strategy chosen by the Christian Brother order, as illustrated on RTE Prime Time 7 February 2023.

“Furthermore, that this council writes to the Christian Brother leadership team, condemning this litigation strategy.

“Furthermore that this Council calls upon our members in the Borough District of Drogheda to rescind the Freedom of Drogheda bestowed on the former leader of the Christian Brothers, Edmund Garvey.”

Drogheda-born Garvey was head of the Christian Brothers when the order adopted the litigation strategy stemming from a Supreme Court ruling in 2017.

That ruling said unincorporated associations, such as religious orders, can't be sued directly and cases must be taken against all members of the order at the time of the alleged wrongdoing.

Orders can select someone to act as its nominee if it chooses to do so, but the Christian Brothers has opted not to do so, which is within their rights.

The Christian Brothers have adopted the same policy in relation to a current case, meaning that if a case is taken against the order, every member at that time must be included in the litigation.

When tabling an amendment to Cllr Yore’s motion, Cllr Callan said the first two paragraphs should remain unaltered, however, he proposed that the final part, in relation to rescinding Br Garvey’s Freedom of Drogheda award, be voted upon at Drogheda District Council level at their next meeting.

The amended motion passed overwhelmingly, with 18 councillors voting in favour, and three against.

Councillors Conor Keelan and Paddy McQuillan spoke passionately in favour of Cllr Yore’s original motion.

Prior to the votes Cllr McQuillan said he had remained silent on the issue to date, but that he now wanted to state publicly that rescinding the Freedom of Drogheda was the “right thing to do”.

He said: “To rescind the Freedom of Drogheda award to a recipient is unprecedented in the history of our great town. However, I feel the award bestowed on this individual should be rescinded. His behaviour is without love, accountability, regard or respect for the victims of sexual abuse.

Cllr Keelan said there was no reason why the motion shouldn’t have been dealt with at previous meetings this year.

“This motion should have been heard in public and we all should have voted upon it”

Cllr Keenan pointed out that none of councillors present were members of Drogheda Borough Council in 1997, but now they are saying it is “up to you to remove it”.

He added: “We should vote on it now and take it off him.”

Cllr Kevin Meenan said Sinn Féin was “fully behind” the first two parts of Cllr Yore’s motion, but that the party spent a considerable amount of time discussing the second part, and intended to propose an amendment similar to Cllr Callan’s.

His Sinn Féin colleague, Cllr Tomas Sharkey, added that the Borough District of Drogheda needed to discuss and vote on rescinding the Freedom of Drogheda award, and not simply ask for it to be handed back.