By Alison Comyn - Drogheda Independent - 29.08.2023 [IRELAND]
As local councillors prepare to ballot on whether to rescind the Freedom of Drogheda from the former leader of the Christian Brothers, a row has broken out over the matter within victim support group Dignity4Patients, causing the chairman Paul Murphy to step down from his position.
Dublin councillor Damian O’Farrell has been lobbying for the honour to be removed from Brother Edmund Garvey, as survivors say it is causing distress to victims and alleged victims of sexual abuse by members of the Christian Brothers.
Paul Murphy, in a private capacity rather than as a representative of the support group, sent letters to individual Louth County Councillors, urging them not to remove the Freedom from Bro Garvey.
" I have been reading carefully about the court cases involving Christian Brothers and, like everyone else, am deeply saddened and appalled at the actions of a number of individuals in that order who allegedly engaged in sexual assault of young people in their care,” wrote Mr Murphy. “I am aware that in September you will be considering whether to withdraw or cancel the Freedom of Drogheda granted by Drogheda Corporation to Bro Edmund Garvey in 1997, or to consider asking him to "hand back" the Freedom. I would respectfully ask councillors not to do either. Bro Garvey was awarded the Freedom for his work as an educator with an honourable record over many years. He is, to my knowledge, a blameless person. I strongly believe that the legal strategy adopted by the Christian Brothers in court cases against the order is ethically wrong and deeply hurtful to many victims but there is a danger that the issue will become personalised on one individual”.
However, the letter was made public, prompting CEO of Dignity4Patients, which supports victims of sexual abuse, to distance themselves from the contents.
“Cllr O’Farrell fully recognises that the letter sent by our former Chair Paul Murphy to Louth County Councillors in no way represents the views of our victims, our Board, or our staff. We were totally unaware of this letter and would never, ever, have sanctioned or supported it,” said CEO Adrienne Reilly, who is out of sick leave recovering from surgery. “Damian also fully understands we are beyond devastated that anyone associated with Dignity4Patients could write such a letter.”
Mr Murphy resigned as chair of Dignity4Patients with immediate effect, and said he did not mean to cause upset.
“I did not mean any distress to any individual and apologise,” said Mr Murphy, who is currently abroad on holidays. “I resigned as I did not want any distraction from the good work of Dignity4Patients and wish them well in the future.”
Brother Edmund Garvey was given the Freedom of Drogheda in 1997 and apologised publicly at the time for any hurtful experiences people suffered because of the order, or in its schools.
Some feel the Freedom should be rescinded as he presided over a litigation strategy which means that cases against the order must be taken against all the members of the order at the time of the alleged wrongdoing.
Louth County Councillors are set to vote on the move in a ballot in early September.
Meanwhile local activist and Aontu representative Michael O’Dowd is calling on the councillors to meet with the new Christian Brother’s province leader Br David Gibson before making any decision.
Mr O’Dowd says he told Bro Gibson last week that he is very unhappy with the legal strategy they are pursuing and he got the strong impression they would be open to a council delegation to discuss the matter further. 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.