Breda O’Brien and the Singing Priests



Breda O’Brien, with characteristic tone-deafness, seems very upset that more people are not upset at Martyn Turner’s “singing priests” cartoon. She bemoans “the satire of ‘singing priests’, given the best-known singing priests are humble men who raise phenomenal amounts of money for charity.”

Really? Without in any way questioning the good faith of “singing priests” as a whole, I would like to point out to Ms O’Brien that for people who follow the news and who might worry more about the safety of children and less about the reputation of their religion, by far the best-known “singing priest” is the Elvis impersonator Father Tony Walsh.

In December 2010, Father Walsh was sentenced to a total of 123 years in prison for child abuse. In reality, he is serving those sentences concurrently and could be out in ten years’ time. Following Walsh’s sentencing, the previously-withheld Chapter 19 of the Murphy Report was published. Its introduction read: “Fr Tony Walsh is probably the most notorious child sexual abuser to have come to the attention of the Commission… His pattern of behaviour is such that it is likely that he has abused hundreds of children.”

A psychiatrist who treated Walsh in 1988 warned “Tony Walsh is extremely compulsive – there have been an awful lot of children involved. He is a very disturbed man. He is always going to be dangerous. He could not be let near schools, children, Confession without a grille…”

In 2012, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin apologised to the victims of the “singing priest”. “The Archdiocese of Dublin failed these children,” he said. “It was too slow in recognising that Tony Walsh was a predatory paedophile.

“I can only unreservedly apologise to the victims of this man for what they endured and for the way in which the diocese failed them.”

On the issue of the seal of the Confessional, Ms O’Brien goes on to say that “The Samaritans have a similar commitment to never revealing anything their callers talk about, but no one pillories them.”

I’m open to correction on this, but I’m pretty sure that the Samaritans never covered up or facilitated wholesale child abuse by members of the Samaritans.

Donal O’Keeffe

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