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Kenneally questions time taken by victims to come forward

By Orla O'Donnell - RTE News - 13.03.2024 - [Commission of Investigations] Convicted child abuser Bill Kenneally has told a commission investigating the response to his abuse that if boys' lives had been ruined by what he had done, he did not know why it had taken them so long to come forward.

He is serving almost 19 years in prison for the serious sexual abuse of 15 young boys between 1979 and 1990. Gardaí believe at least 14 other boys were abused by Kenneally and the case has been described at the commission as one of the most serious cases of paedophilia discovered in Ireland.

His prosecutions in 2016 and in 2023 heard he met boys through basketball coaching and groomed them by plying them with drink, money and other gifts while subjecting them to very serious sexual abuse.

The commission, chaired by retired High Court judge Michael White, is examining the response of authorities including gardaí, the health board, Basketball Ireland, politicians, and members of the Catholic Church to the allegations of sexual abuse made against Kenneally from the mid-1980s onwards.

Kenneally and his barrister, Senior Counsel John Peart, objected to questions about his abuse being put by barrister Barra McGrory, representing seven of the boys who were abused.

Kenneally said he had not received transcripts of their evidence to the commission, which was given in private. He also said he and his lawyers should have been given the chance to cross-examine them.

Kenneally said he had pleaded guilty in his first prosecution to one charge related to each of the seven complainants in the first prosecution before they turned 15. He also repeatedly accused the commission and Mr McGrory of exceeding the terms of reference. However, Mr Justice White said the questions arose from Kenneally’s attempts in his own evidence to minimise his behaviour.

The judge also said he had much wider child protection issues to deal with in relation to the response to allegations that he had abused boys beyond whether they were under or over 15.

To sharp intakes of breath from victims and their families in the public gallery, Kenneally claimed that one of the victims had said himself that he wanted to be "part of it".

He agreed that he had regularly supplied alcohol to young boys and girls aged 13 and 14 and asked "is that a criminal offence". He said it was not true that he was "grooming everyone".

Asked if he gave the young boys alcohol to loosen their inhibitions and be more cooperative with what he intended to do, Kenneally said that "cooperative" insinuated "consensual", again to the shock of the victims listening.

He was asked if he had taken polaroid photographs of naked boys and shown them to the boys, and said he had not pleaded guilty to that. He said he had given the boys money but said the amount they said they received was exaggerated.

Kenneally said the evidence of a boy, that he had been shouting at him to stop during an incident of abuse and was laughing through it, was not true.

Mr McGrory asked Kenneally if he understood that in some cases he had ruined the lives of some boys. He said that, if they were ruined, he did not know "why they took 30 years to come forward", again to the obvious shock and upset of those listening.

Asked if he wanted to say anything to Mr McGrory’s clients, Keneally said he had said what he said in court in Waterford and they "got up and walked out". That was the appropriate time and place, he added.

Kenneally criticises 'political interference' in trial

Earlier, Kenneally denied that he went on hunger strike before his second trial for abuse in order to delay the commission of investigation. He said he was upset in 2020 as he had not been allowed to attend legal proceedings he had taken challenging his second prosecution.

Asked by Mr McGrory if the purpose of his hunger strike was to delay the commission process, he said it was nothing to do with "this process". Kenneally also complained about "political interference" in his trial.

He criticised Tánaiste Mícheál Martin for commenting, after a Prime Time programme on his case after his first prosecution in 2016, that the level of abuse on so many boys was "horrific".

He said the RTÉ programme had made accusations about charges to which he had not pleaded guilty and which had not been pursued by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mr Justice White pointed out to Kenneally that there was a procedure in the criminal courts where a person pleaded guilty to sample counts and the sentencing took place on the basis of all the facts. He said he was concerned that Kenneally’s evidence was unfair to victims who were not represented at the commission.

He also told the commission that he did not feel aggrieved by the way he had been dealt with by gardaí in 1987. But he said he felt that, if he had been brought to court and sentenced at that stage, the counts against him would have been treated concurrently and he would have got a total sentence of 17 months instead of ten consecutive sentences.

However, he said the functions of An Garda Síochána were different in 1987 to what they are now. The function then was to "reduce the level of crime and disorder," he added. If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can contact Dignity4Patients, whose helpline is open Monday to Thursday 10am to 4pm.


Dignity4Patients Commentary: Thoughts with victims of #BillKenneally 2day listening to evidence like this. D4P stand in solidarity - inspired by persistence & successful pursuit for their #publicinquiry. We hope @helenmcentee triggers the same for the 350+ Michael Shine victims #stopsexualabuse


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