A man hovered in the yard beside Banbridge court house pulling on a cigarette waiting for the now retired Cardinal Sean Brady to come out.
The retired Cardinal had spent Thursday morning telling the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry about the church’s “flawed” response to complaints about Brendan Smyth, the paedophile priest back in 1975.
The man outside the court house watched as Cardinal Brady emerged to a whirr of cameras, got into a waiting silver car and drove away. Then he told a bit of his own story. He had been sexually abused by Smyth in various children’s homes in Northern Ireland. Some years later he was doing time in Magilligan prison when Smyth was incarcerated there for abusing more than 40 children. Some of the other inmates attacked him with snooker balls in a bag but he never went near him. He was still terrified of the monster Brendan Smyth.
Last week, Northern Ireland’s Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) resurrected the ghost of Brendan Smyth. Almost 20 years after his death, when you’d think there was little more that could shock us about paedophile priests and the protectionist Catholic hierarchy, the HIA put into the public domain decades’ worth of internal church documents, letters, medical records and police reports and transcripts.
They provide further insight into the horror of what Smyth’s crimes, marking the response of his superiors – already widely acknowledged as being woeful – as even worse. This is one case where the devil is truly in the detail.
The HIA is investigating whether systemic failures allowed Smyth, who abused at least seven boys in children’s homes, to continue abusing for so long.