November 1997

Abuse priest ruined 30 lives

A priest was yesterday jailed for seven years after admitting indecently assaulting young girls.

Judge Harvey Kenny told Father Martin (Mattie) Greaney (56) that he had destroyed the lives of 30 girls by his dastardly conduct.

The average age of his victims was 12.

In a statement made to gardai, Fr Greaney, who is attached to the Archdiocese of Tuam, admitted he had paedophile tendencies for 30 years.

“I can’t offer any excuse for my behaviour. I found it impossible to stop myself. I’d give anything to be without these sexual urges”, he said.

Fr Greaney pleaded guilty to 13 sample charges of indecently assaulting eight girls in counties Mayo, Galway and Tipperary between 1979 and 1990.

The defendant, who was described as having a `magnetic personality’, was always surrounded by children. He had abused them in a number of houses, in his presbytery and in school.

On two occasions he indecently assaulted one of the girls in the choir gallery of a church. He gave his victims sweets and money.

Ballina Circuit Court heard yesterday that in October of last year, Fr Greaney had admitted indecently assaulting four girls in Co Mayo.

Media reports of his appearance at Castlebar Circuit Court had led to another victim in Co Galway contacting gardai and this led to statements from others who had also suffered abuse.

Many of the victims suffered psychologically and had great difficulty forming relationships afterwards. One victim blamed the abuse by Fr Greaney for the break-up of her marriage. Another said she wanted to kill him.

Some of the victims said they now distrusted priests and had turned away from the church.

Detective Garda John Clancy, who was commended for his work in the case by Judge Kenny, told the court that the abuse came to light via a psychologist in Dublin who was treating one of the victims.

The accused was a local curate and family friend who had offered the 14-year-old girl a lift home after a wedding.

He took her to his house on the pretext of checking messages. He had unbuttoned her blouse and touched her on the breast and leg.

Det Gda Clancy said the woman had now withdrawn socially and was extremely fearful of her assailant.

She disappeared from home for days without warning when she could not handle what had happened to her.

Now 24, she said in a victim impact statement: “I’m full of anger. I want to kill him. It’s like I had no childhood. I feel people around here resent me for reporting a priest.”

A friend of the victims was also sexually abused by the defendant when she called to the sacristy. He had ejaculated beside her.

The incident had happened while her mother was dying. She changed from an outgoing child to someone who was depressed and who had turned to drinking in her late teens.

“Now I can’t bear my partner kissing me I go cold and turn away. I still think of Fr Greaney putting his tongue in my mouth,” she said in a victim impact statement.

Fr Greaney had a magnetic affect on children and when he called to his local primary school in 1989, the children crowded around him in the lunch room. He put his arm around an 11-year-old girl in the group.

He put his hand inside her blouse and felt her breasts outside her bra while he talked nonchantly to the other girls.

“She was dying, wondering if the other girls noticed, but they didn’t,” Det Gda Clancy said.

He moved his hand to her genital area before stopping. The incident had a shocking affect on the girl who now felt `dirty and disgusted’ over what had happened.

Another girl aged 10, was undressed and assaulted in a neighbour’s house after Fr Greaney had said a Station Mass there. After abusing her, he went back to the after-Mass party.

A 29-yr-old woman told in a victim impact report of being abused two or three times a week by Fr Greaney in 1981. She had to bring him a newspaper at lunchtimes while in primary school.

She blamed the abuse for the break-up of her marriage.

Another victim said she was going to take an action for damages against the Catholic Church. She still had flashbacks of the abuse and did not trust priests at all.

In 1989-90, Fr Greaney assaulted an 8-year-old girl in his house. He had also taken down her clothes and assaulted her in the choir gallery of the church.

Now 17, the victim said she had changed from an outgoing girl to one with mood swings. She had a very quick temper and had a bad relationship with her father.

The court was told that Fr Greaney was a native of Tuam and had been educated locally. He had served in six parishes since he was ordained in 1967.

He had been suspended in 1995 and had not been acting as a priest since. He had been receiving counselling and therapy at a centre in Stroud, England.

He had donated a kidney to his brother in 1972 and was held in high esteem in the parishes where he worked as a curate.

In his statement to Gardai, Fr Greaney said he wanted to say sorry to the children, to the church and to the communities in which he had worked.

“I didn’t deliberately set out to cause anybody any harm,” he said.

Before sentencing, Fr John O’Boyle, a representative of the Archbishop of Tuam, Dr Michael Neary addressed Judge Kenny.

He expressed Dr Neary’s great concern for the victims and for the trauma and suffering they had gone through. The pastoral services of the Archdiocese would be made available to them.

He also wished to express the archbishop’s sadness for the family of Fr Greaney. Dr Neary prayed that the priests of the archdiocese and all priests would not be jeopardised by what had happened.

Judge Kenny told Fr Greaney he had violated the trust and confidence of his parishioners. He had done untold damage to the parents of his victims and they would find it very hard to forgive him.

The 30 or so children he had abused had been destroyed by his actions. “By your dastardly conduct you destroyed their lives”, he told the priest.

He had also destroyed the trust between teachers and pupils and had done damage to future generations of children.

“You have also devastated your own church. Several of your victims don’t want to go to Mass and don’t want to know priests”.

He imposed a seven year prison sentence.