Saturday 22 October 2016

Ex-Archbishop 'paid woman €176k over threats of exposure'

Richard Burke
Richard Burke

a FORMER Roman Catholic Archbishop who resigned over breaking his vow of celibacy has sued RTE for defamation.

Richard Burke, former Archbishop of Benin city in Nigeria, claims he was wrongly depicted as a paedophile in the 2011 Prime Time Investigates programme Mission to Prey.

Co Tipperary-born Mr Burke, now aged 66, had intimate sexual relations with Dolores Atwood, who featured on the RTE programme, but not when she was under age, his counsel Jack Fitzgerald SC told a High Court judge and jury.

Mr Burke "is not a paedophile", has never in his life ever molested a child and, at the end of this case, you will be convinced that is the truth, counsel said.

As an Archbishop who had sexual relations with Ms Atwood, she had "leaned" on him and he paid her "a large sum of money", about €176,000, but that was something not mentioned in the programme, counsel said.

The jury would hear the pressure Ms Atwood put on Mr Burke was such he became "terrified" of the exposure of their relationship, he said.

The court would also hear Mr Burke paid large sums to her due to pressure she was putting him under.

There would be evidence of "further threats", including giving him four options for her to keep quiet, one of which was to pay another €50,000 over five years on top of the €176,000 already paid to her.


Mr Fitzgerald was opening the action by Mr Burke against RTE alleging defamation from the Mission to Prey programme, broadcast on May 23, 2011.

RTE denies defamation and pleads the contents of the programme related to Mr Burke are true.

Mr Fitzgerald said Mr Burke, from Clonmel, resigned in May 2010 as Archbishop of Benin because he did not comply with his commitment to celibacy as a cleric. He had let down himself, his family and Church because of non-compliance with his celibacy commitment.

He was ashamed of that, remorseful, humiliated and in pain because of the resignation "but he is not a paedophile".

Mr Fitzgerald said RTE was standing over the allegation made by Ms Atwood in the programme, which was about child sex abuse.

The programme, in summary, said Mr Burke is a paedophile and he could not think of anything worse to say of anybody or of any institution more powerful than RTE to say that of anyone, counsel said.

In its defence, RTE was saying, 'Yes, we said he is a paedophile on Prime Time and we still say he is a paedophile', counsel said.

"They repeat it in the High Court, that is why this case is so serious."

The only evidence on the programme Mr Burke was a paedophile came from Ms Attwood and it was "grossly unfair" she was presented on the programme as someone establishing a fact.

Mr Burke did have a sexual relationship with her but not when she was under age or 13 or 14 as the programme recounts, he said.

The case continues.

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