Martin Kerr, the former sacristan of St Peter’s Cathedral, Belfast, who has been to prison twice for abusing altar boys and scouts in the Cathedral parish has made a failed attempt to emigrate to Scotland and has returned to Northern Ireland.


Martin Kerr – Senior Altar Boy (Right) serving Mass For Bishop Cahal Daly


In the interests of truth and accuracy it must be pointed out that there are no allegations that Martin Kerr has reoffended since his second time in prison and the landlord has informed me that Mr Kerr says that he completed his time on the Sex Offenders Register in February 2015.

As far as the law in concerned Martin Kerr has paid his debt to society for the wrong he did. Of course that does not mean that his victims of their families can ever forget – much less forgive – the harm he did. We must not lecture them about forgiving and forgetting. The wounds are their wounds. They may never be ready to forgive. And how can they ever forget?

The saddest victim of all was young Paul Carson from the Lower Falls Road in Belfast who sadly took his own life at a very young age because he could not live with his pain. This young man was deprived of happiness, peace of mind and indeed his very life. It was the most awful tragedy.


Paul Carson RIP

After his first stint in prison Martin Kerr asked me to help him. I agreed to help him for two reasons:

1. Hoping that my help and supervision would prevent him ever re-offending and hurting another young person. In other words helping him NOT to reoffend was a very practical form of child protection.

2. I am a priest. It is a priest’s solemn vocation to help everybody – even and especially people that other people regard as outcasts and lepers. Jesus cleansed lepers. In a very real sense people like Martin Kerr are the “lepers” of our day.

How did I help him?

1. I helped him to get a flat in a business area where there were no children, no families and no schools.

2. I became the person who had daily contact with him and watched him on behalf of the police, the social services and the probation services. Part of my role was to attend a regular meeting with the authorities to report to them how he was behaving and living his life.

3. I insisted on Martin Kerr engaging in personal and group counselling and attending therapy sessions provided by the probation services – counselling and therapy that is aimed at making abusers face up to what they did, take full responsibility for their crimes and engaging in a LIFE TIME management plan to ensure that they never reoffended.

Sadly all my efforts, and the efforts of so many others, failed. Martin Kerr reoffended through internet contact with another abuser. That very day I reported him to the police and within an hour he was arrested and was back in prison.

I have not had any contact with him since. He must now be around 55+ years old.

Since he has come out of prison he has moved from location to location – as people have recognised him. He has been threatened by both Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries.

Martin Kerr sponsoring a child for confirmation by Bishop Walsh and watched by Fathers Sean Crummey and Matt Wallace RIP


The discussion on paedophilia and paedophiles invariably ends up in hysteria and anger. This is understandable as most people get very upset about anyone or anything that hurts an innocent young child.

However, surely, there must be room for a rational and Christian approach? I think the following points help:

1. The ABSOLUTE PRIORITY all the time must be the safeguarding and protecting of innocent little children and vulnerable adults.

2. Paedophilia is a most serious crime that calls for substantial sentences and punishment.

3. The victim of this crime must be given the primary gift of being believed. They must be given the full support of everyone involved. They must have every useful type of counselling and therapy made available to them immediately – by a therapist or counsellor of their own choosing.

4. The victim must be generously and voluntarily awarded substantial compensation by all those in a position to offer such compensation.

5. The family of the victim, who will be experiencing their own trauma over the abuse, must also be afforded every possible type of support, therapy and counselling.

The Perpetrators:

1. The abuser should be brought before the courts and be punished with an appropriate sentence and be placed on the Sex Offenders Register.

2. While in prison the abuser should have therapy available to him / her in order to come to the realisation of the great harm they have done and their need to manage their sexual desires for life. If the abuser refuses therapy or does not co-operate with therapy he/she should not be considered for parole or release on licence.

3. When the abuser leaves prison he/she should be mandated to continue life management therapy and should be closely supervised by the probation services, the social services and the police in the place where they live.

4. The abuser should only be allowed to live in an area where the possible access to children, schools etc is either non-existent or at a bare minimum.

We need to have an intelligent and rational debate about this very sensitive topic.


The idea that abusers should only be allowed out in the company of a court appointed and fully vetted chaperone is an excellent idea.

These chaperones should have good training and a strict code of conduct. They should be appointed by the courts and assigned to particular abusers by the courts. They should have absolutely no connection to the abuser – where familial, religious, etc.

There should be strict “no go” areas – like schools, youth clubs  and all child/youth facilities.

The abuser and chaperone should not develop a friendship to stop the abuser manipulating the chaperone.

Abusers and chaperones should be welcome in churches after identifying themselves with the church safeguarding person.


You’re wasting your time Pat there are only two cures long term incarceration or the short end of a long rope. They should get the same life sentence they give their victims.


You are absolutely right these beasts always re-offend. It is their victims who need help for the life sentence inflicted on them.


9.36: That’s a very helpful suggestion you make! What mad world are you living in? Ridiculous and crazy comment. Pat was right to accompany am this man and seek, insofar as possible, to help him to an awareness of the awful destructive wrong and hurt inflicted and to also be a moral and spiritual support. I have acted as an accompaniment to 2 colleagues accused of abuse: my role, simply being there as a support friend when their fate was decided. It is the Christian thing to do as a Christian. I did so when asked on the condition that all the relevant support, help, counselling was being given to those abused. I needed to be assured that the abused were being cared for with the utmost compassion and dignity. I was also given guidelines as to how to accompany the perpetrators. I understand the anger people feel when abused and I understand the depth of anger felt by families, relatives and friends. I think the thoughts expressed by Pat and MMM are worthwhile and helpful while acknowledging that the law of the civil courts must apply to the crimes commited and that the needs of those who are abused are of absolute and paramount importance.


In my view, you make some very good points, Bishop Pat. You’re a brave man.
Society has to deal with these individuals post custodial sentences.
Chaperoning, is a good idea in theory. In practice?
What about costs, and cost implications, to the taxpayer?
Would the taxpayer be willing to fund such a scheme?
Might there be legal issues re human rights, constitutional rights violations,
on release from prison, if chaperoning was adopted? What is current best practice elsewhere?
Christians cannot be part of the hang’em and flog’em brigade but a rational Christian approach
based on the realities of the issues involved, needs to be developed.


Anon @ 10:36: Your questions raise very realistic points. While in principle, monitoring by chaperone may be effective, I think government priorities simply will not finance such an expensive scheme which will have very little public support. They wouldn’t even finance a properly resourced probation service in England, and hiving it off to the private sector has proved a disaster so much that U turns are afoot. Failing Grayling again!
I understand the emotional responses of the ‘hang or flog them’ public.
With respect to abusing clerics, I am of the view that a proven abusing cleric should not return to any form of public ministry. I have earlier given the reasons. The risk of further abuse by devious plausible abusers allowed back into potential positions of power and influence over vulnerable children is simply unacceptable.


Religious orders usually keep them in one of their houses. For instance the Dublin Capuchins sent the abuser Fr Dominic Savio Boland to their friary in Donegal.

A diocese lets priests retire.


What about supervision when outside the religious orders house? Are they allowed continue in ministry of any kind?
If so, what kind of ministry? When diocesan priests retire, does that mean legally, the diocese has no responsibility to the retired priest in the case of him reoffending?


I do not think that a responsible bishop or superior would allow an abuser minister in any way. But then not all bishops and superiors are responsible.


Indeed. Not all bishops and superiors are responsible, which is illustrated in the Polish documentary ‘Tell No One’ where as recently as last december 2018, a known child abuser priest was in ministry to children! Unbelievable!
No wonder over 22 million people have watched it!


+ Pat are you ok as that’s a first if you are being nice about responsible bishops or superiors and that is appreciated.
+ Pat with nearly 4000 Bishops it is only right but sad some will make mistakes after all they are human too.
But hopefully if they know they have done wrong or made a mistake they correct it as soon as possible.
However today Pope Francis has accepted Auxiliary bishop fields resignation from now and a small mention on the diocesan web site.
Strange as Auxiliary Bishop Walsh put his in first and not accepted as yet.
There is good clergy and religious all over the Church sadly a few bad apples.


Paul, as usual you have got it wrong. You can’t write properly yet either. I take it you are the infamous gay Irishman living in Scotland who writes to nuncios.
E. Walsh and R.Field submitted their resignations together. Neither was accepted. RF submitted his again more recently on age grounds and its acceptance was announced on the Vatican website today. EW has yet to submit his a second time.


Off topic but very important.
Breaking story from USA; check out, Grand Torino, on YouTube, ‘Google’s interference in Irish Abortion Referendum,’.
Project Veritas reports, election meddling in Ireland’s abortion referendum.


Pat, an exclusive for your blog that the BBC and it’s Spotlight programme are unaware of. The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka were instrumental in revealing details of Ian Paisleys Visit there that he didn’t declare. There is a link between the Catholic hierarchy in Sri Lanka and a N Ireland Cleric.


Little Ian actually introduced me to the Sri Lankan ambassador to the UK at the Galgorm hotel in Ballymena.


Why is the priest in Galway that is under investigation with the civil and religious authorities allowed not only to continue in ministry but was on local radio last week talking about the Corpus Christi Procession? I hear all the talk, but I don’t see the walk. Thank God for people like you Pat.


Oh the Church is now doing the walk so you maybe wrong here.
The Church needs proof but usually they are suspended during investigation.
Bishop Kelly is 73 so maybe not understand canon Law drop him a letter or email and ask him.


Another issue rarely discussed publicly is of false allegations of child sexual abuse.
This happens more frequently than people realize within all sectors and professions.


Pat what were you doing dining with Paisley and the SriI Lankan ambassador? I heard you have had a few trips to Sri Lanka.


I was just at a nearby table. I’ve know Little I for a long time.
I worked with him on the UDR 4 case.


I would work for anyone I believe has suffered an injustice.

I was at war with the UDR in Kilkeel 83 and 84.


On 21 October 1992 Peter Robinson moved an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom that said:

That this House urges the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to consider a further referral to the Court of Appeal of the case of Neil Latimer; acknowledges that the recent judgement in the UDR 4 case relied heavily upon the evidence of witness A in refusing Neil Latimer’s release; is now deeply concerned about the safety of that judgement in light of an affidavit signed by a Roman Catholic priest, Pat Buckley, alleging he met the women known as witness A who informed him she was not certain that Neil Latimer was the man she saw in Lonsdale Street in November 1983 and that she believed Neil Latimer is an innocent man; and seeks an investigation into claims, in the same affidavit, that witness A, her family and friends have received favours from the police in exchange for witness A not retracting her statement. [2]


A correction from me you are correct Bishop Walsh is going in September however they thought they would likely stay on a 12 – 18 months before replacement are announced but Archbishop Martin informed Rome to let him go NOW.
The three of them have never got on since the scandals when Archbishop Martin said to they resing maybe nine years ago but then Rome said no however they have accepted it very quick.


Jesus, Buckley, you worked on behalf of the UDR? Something we knew in West Belfast. Do you realise what you’ve claimed?


I worked on behalf on ONE member of the UDR who claimed he was done an injustice.

What kind of NUT are you?

Do you think that only Catholics and Republicans suffered injustices?

People like you are THE PROBLEM.


Buckley you are so so out of touch with the Catholic nationalist community here. Do you not realise that your defence of the UDR is deeply offensive. Cop yourself on?


So you are happy to celebrate a UDR injustice?

I dont give a damn about your so called ” Catholic nationalist community”.

You let priests ride your children!!!


You are right, Bishop Pat.

God’s love knows all, helps all who ask, and wants all for itself. None excepted…even UDR soldiers.

That other fellow does not know God.


Anon @ 10:00: The inference in your comment, and the attitudinal stance it displays goes to the heart of the N. Ireland problems. The ‘them and us’ view that ‘we are right, and they are wrong’: the unwillingness to have any understanding of the views of our fellow citizens from a different cultural background simply serves to perpetuate the great N. Ireland divisive mentality. To understand is not necessarily to agree with, but it goes a long way towards recognising our common humanity, and reconciliation.
+Pat stood up for injustice regardless of the individual’s background. In doing so, he followed the examples of recently deceased Ivan Cooper MP.
As a Protestant, and at great personal risk, Cooper stood up for the rights of oppressed Catholics by organising civil rights demonstrations, notably at Bloody Sunday. As a civil rights activist for all sections of the community, he organised the mainly Catholic marchers, seeking equality of opportunity in jobs, housing etc.
You would do well Anon @ 10:00 to read more and broaden your understanding beyond the narrow confines of a ghetto mentality: for that’s what your comment suggests


Seems Pat you’ve been at war all your life with all kinds of groups, sects, individuals and churches! Well done. But are you always right???


10.37: What a low life, trailer trash comment! Ignirant and offensive. Pat, you stand for nothing. You blow with the wind. There have been many men of other faiths caught with children…Is that ok with you since I don’t hear any condemnation or any comment from you about the IRA / Sinn Fein abuses and coverups!!


SF/IRA has been guilty of horrible things that need to be condemned.

There is wrong on all sides.


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