A long running public inquiry into child abuse is expected to hear from a former leader of the Catholic church in Ireland.
Cardinal Sean Brady, who resigned on age grounds last year, is due to give evidence to the Historical Abuse Inquiry (HIA) in Banbridge, Co Down later today.
The senior cleric faced fierce criticism after it emerged he had attended meetings where two teenage victims of paedophile priest Father Brendan Smyth were sworn to secrecy in 1975.
Their evidence was never handed over to police, allowing the west Belfast churchman to continue abusing children before he was finally jailed in 1994.
Retired judge Sir Anthony Hart is leading the HIA probe, one of the UK’s largest inquiries into physical, sexual and emotional harm to children at homes run by the church, state and voluntary organisations.
One week was set aside to deal with the activities of Smyth and to examine whether systemic failings allowed him to get away with his crimes for so long.
The serial child molester frequented Catholic residential homes and groomed children in family settings after befriending their parents.
Instead of reporting him to the civic authorities Smyth was moved between parishes, countries and even continents where he continued to target children. The only sanctions imposed were temporary bans on hearing confessions and celebrating mass.
Although he has publicly apologised for the church’s mishandling of the sexual deviant, Cardinal Brady has defended his own role in the 1975 internal investigation claiming that, as a priest he had no authority over Smyth.
Yesterday the inquiry heard that Gardai in Dublin knew about Smyth’s paedophilia as far back as 1973.
Fr William Fitzgerald, head of the Norbertine order to which Smyth belonged, also told the panel that the west Belfast priest’s poisonous legacy had effectively ruined them.
Earlier it was revealed Smyth had told a doctor in 1994 that the number of victims he sexually assaulted could run into the hundreds.
Smyth’s abuse has already been described by a number of witnesses who have previously given evidence to the inquiry.
This week’s module has been concentrating on an examination of what opportunities there were to prevent him carrying out the abuse of children and whether any action, or inaction, amounted to systemic failings.
The inquiry was formally established in January 2013 by the Northern Ireland Executive.