Cardinal Sean Brady: McGuinness and Gilmore critical

The Catholic primate of all Ireland says he will not resign as Church leader despite revelations in the BBC's This World show. Footage courtesy of RTE

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Political leaders have strongly criticised the head of Ireland's Catholic Church for refusing to resign over a paedophile priest scandal.

Cardinal Sean Brady is accused of failing to act when alerted to abuse allegations when he was a young priest.

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and the Irish deputy PM both questioned whether Cardinal Brady should remain in his job.

Meanwhile, police are to review a documentary which examined the issue.

On Tuesday, a BBC documentary revealed that in 1975, a 14-year-old boy who had been sexually abused by a paedophile priest, Fr Brendan Smyth, gave the then Fr Brady the names and addresses of other children who had been abused.

It said Fr Brady did not pass on the details to the police or parents.

On Thursday, Police Service of Northern Ireland Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton said detectives would look at the documentary to assess whether it should be included in their investigation into institutional abuse.

"For the last number of months there has been an investigation ongoing under an operation called Operation Charwell into alleged institutional abuse and this is really the context in which we will examine the material that was made available through the BBC documentary," he said.

There is a lot at stake for the Vatican, with the important International Eucharistic Congress due to take place in Ireland early next month.

This four-yearly event is formally a celebration of the mass ...and in particular what Roman Catholics believe is the "real presence" of Jesus in the blessed bread and wine shared by the congregation.

But it is also a huge convention, bringing Roman Catholics together from across the world for worship and discussion - on this occasion on the fiftieth anniversary of the inauguration of the Second Vatican Council which made profound reforms in the Church.

The loss of the Church's leader so close to the event could overshadow the Congress.

"Before we launch into an investigation or make knee-jerk responses to that, we will take an objective, evidence-based assessment of the material that was in that programme."

At a meeting of the Northern Ireland Assembly's justice committee, the DUP's Jim Wells called on colleagues to write to the PSNI chief constable asking him to launch an investigation into Cardinal Brady's actions.

"I think there's huge public concern in the community about these allegations and I think it's absolutely essential the chief constable acts and immediately carries out an investigation into the activities of Mr Brady," he said.

The committee instead agreed to write to the chief constable asking what action the police were taking.

'Dismayed'

Earlier, Mr McGuinness said Catholics would be "dismayed" by the new allegations about the primate of all Ireland's response to abuse allegations 37 years ago.

He added: "Two years ago when this issue first emerged, I described the situation as grave and said that Cardinal Brady should consider his position.

"Ultimately Cardinal Brady's response is a matter for himself and the Church, but it is a very grave situation for survivors of abuse, for the Catholic Church and for Catholics across Ireland.

"Speaking personally, I believe he should reflect on the wisdom of this position which will leave many Catholics wondering whether anything is to be done by the leadership of the Catholic Church to ring the changes which many believe are required at such a sad time for all."

Irish Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore told the Dail, the Republic's parliament, that anyone in the Catholic Church who failed to deal effectively with child abuse should not hold office.

"I've always believed in the separation of Church and state," he said.

"I think it is the job of government and of the state to enact our laws and to ensure that those laws apply to everybody whether they belong to a church or not.

"But it is my own personal view that anybody who did not deal with the scale of the abuse that we have seen in this case should not hold a position of authority."

'Wrong decisions'

The leader of Northern Ireland's Social Democratic and Labour Party, Alasdair McDonnell, also said the cardinal should resign.

"Wrong decisions were made in 1975 and subsequently - decisions that affected lives," he said.

"Cardinal Brady set for himself in 2010 the criteria by which he would judge as to whether or not he should resign his position.

"In my mind, and in the minds of many Catholics from all parts of the Church, those criteria have been met."

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