Martin: accused of 'adversarial' legal approach

The Catholic archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin has been accused of adopting an excessively "adversarial" legal approach to the recent financial settlement of a case involving a victim of clerical sexual abuse.

Independent Dublin City Council member Damien O'Farrell wrote to Martin on behalf of the victim last month, asking him to take a personal interest in the case in order to minimise the distress which he felt an upcoming settlement hearing would cause.

In the letter, O'Farrell said he had worked in an advocacy role with many abuse victims but that the abuse suffered by the victim at the hands of the late Fr Noel Reynolds was the most tragic he had come across.

He went on to state his belief that if Martin were to instruct his lawyers to offer a generous financial settlement, it would be of great benefit to the victim as well as an important "Christian act of true remorse".

O'Farrell told the Sunday Tribune that he had hoped to avoid putting the victim through the stress of a settlement hearing, but received no response to his letter.

The settlement hearing went ahead last month, resulting in agreement on a final settlement figure. This is believed to have been significantly in excess of what was originally offered by the archdiocese.

O'Farrell believes that the process of negotiation, which the victim found very distressing, could have been avoided if Martin had intervened.

"I accept that the archdiocese have made a genuine attempt to deal with this case and others," he said. "However the victim brought the case to them and unless you have experienced what the victim experienced down in the Law Library that day you would have no idea of the trauma involved. [It was] a very stressful situation. Medication, panic attacks etc were all involved."

"I don't believe any bishop has had to go through this and I doubt there was even a representative [of the bishop] there at all bar Archbishop Martin's legal team... If he had personal experience of the Law Library and what goes on there, I'm sure the very first settlement offer made wouldn't have been so insulting to the victim."

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese said it would be inappropriate to comment on the settlement process of any individual person.

"In such actions the person who has suffered abuse has the benefit of legal representation through a solicitor and advice from a barrister," she said. "This ensures the person receives the fairest representation possible in their dealings with the diocese.

"Settlements reached with victims can only come about through a voluntary process in which the victim has the benefit of advice from independent counsel and is given as much time as he or she needs to be satisfied that this is their desired outcome."