Garda ‘never heard of’ paedophile Bill Kenneally during time as sergeant-in-charge at Waterford station

Mr Justice White says today’s proceedings will be ‘last major sitting’ of commission of inquiry into handling of abuse allegations against former sports coach

A retired garda has said he never heard of Bill Kenneally during his term as sergeant-in-charge at Waterford Garda station between 1986 and 1989 despite complaints about the convicted paedophile’s “significant” sexual abuse of minors being made at the station during that time.

Michael McGarry, who retired from the force as a chief superintendent in 2013, was on Thursday giving evidence to a commission of investigation sitting at the Dublin Dispute Resolution Centre before Mr Justice Michael White. The State-commissed inquiry is investigating how allegations made against Kenneally were handled by An Garda Síochána, politicians, members of the clergy and other authorities.

Mr McGarry said he learned in recent years of a complaint of “significant” sexual abuse of minors by Kenneally made to Supt Seán Cashman at the station in 1987. He said his “understanding at the time” was that the individual making the allegations wanted to speak to Supt Cashman in confidence and did not want to make a formal complaint.

Barra McGrory KC, for seven of Kenneally’s victims, put it to Mr McGarry that because he did not know about the complaint, it would suggest that no investigation of the allegations took place.

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“If there was an investigation at Waterford station at that time, I would probably know about it,” the witness said.

Mr McGarry stated that he did not know about or come across Kenneally during his time as sergeant in charge at the station. He moved to a station in Dublin in 1989 before retuning to Waterford as an inspector in 1991.

Asked by Mr Justice White what the normal procedure was when an individual presented at the station to make an admission, Mr McGarry said gardaí would conduct a cautioned interview with the individual.

Kenneally (72), a former sports coach from Laragh, Summerville Road, Waterford, was first convicted in 2016 and is now serving prison sentences of more than 18 years for abusing 15 boys between 1979 and 1990.

Ray Motherway BL, for two of Kenneally’s victims, put it to Mr McGarry that a teenage boy in 1985 reported at Waterford Garda station that he had been sexually abused by Kenneally, but, because of his age, was told that no information could be taken from him and that he would have to make the complaint with an adult present.

Mr McGarry, who was then a sergeant in charge of a particular unit in the station, said he had no knowledge of the incident. It would be expected that a complaint of this nature be recorded by gardaí at the station in some form, he agreed.

He said he would not be made aware of every person calling to the public office of the station. However, Mr McGarry said one of his jobs was to review an occurrence book – a log of reports made at the station – and make sure cases and calls were followed up.

Mr McGarry also said that part of his job was reviewing Garda files before sending them to a superintendent’s office, and ultimately the Director of Public Prosecutions. However, he said not all files that were sent to the superintendent office’s from the station went through him.

Asked by Mr McGrory about the “extent of the awareness” of sexual assault as a crime among members of An Garda Síochána at the time, Mr McGarry said there “would always be cases” involving women in Waterford but “very seldom” involving men. He said he could not remember dealing any cases of sexual abuse involving male victims during his time as sergeant in charge in Waterford.

He agreed that if a young man had made a complaint of sexual abuse against an older man at the station, it would be viewed as a serious crime.

Mr Justice White opened Thursday’s proceedings by noting that it would be the “last major sitting” of the commission in terms of evidence and disclosure. The commission commenced in 2018 and was then led by Mr Justice Barry Hickson.

Mr Justice White also stated that counsel for An Garda Síochána had requested to cross-examine Kenneally on evidence he gave to the inquiry last March. Kenneally then refused to accept that he ruined the life of his victims.

“I don’t know why they took 30 years to come forward,” he said in response to questioning from Mr McGrory.

Fiachra Gallagher

Fiachra Gallagher

Fiachra Gallagher is an Irish Times journalist