Child abuse 'A moral lapse'

  • 25 April 2006
  • test

This is the story of Denis Daly's life as a priest, based on a report compiled from the archives of the Archdiocese of Sydney. This was done by the archivist, Pauline Garland, in 2003, following Peter McCloskey's requests for information on Denis Daly


Denis Daly was born in 1926 in Ogonnelloe, in east Clare. He attended St Patrick's College seminary in Carlow and was ordained there in June 1951.

In December 1951, he arrived in Sydney, and was appointed as assistant priest to the parish of Dulwich Hill. He served in a number of parishes in Sydney.

In 1957, Cardinal Norman Thomas Gilroy wrote to a Mr AF Borg concerning a "very grave incident" and the behaviour of Denis Daly at a wedding.

In January 1958, a medical advisor described Denis Daly as "suffering from a severe exhaustion state" and the cardinal asked him to take his holidays early.

In March 1963, the Archbishop of Sydney wrote to the St John of God hospital at Richmond that Denis Daly had been "directed by the police authorities to undergo a course of psychiatric treatment". A further letter wrote that "it would be an embarrassment for (Denis Daly) to exercise the sacred ministry in this State" and that he would have to be adopted by a bishop elsewhere.

Denis Daly was sent to Perth in 1963, where he worked as a priest for three years. The Archbishop of Sydney described these circumstances in a letter to another bishop: "Three years ago (Denis Daly) was involved in a police case which was suspended on condition that he left New South Wales... I recalled Fr Daly to Sydney in the expectation that the three years' absence would have satisfied the requirements of the police. In this I was mistaken". The Archbishop was told by police that Denis Daly "was not to return to New South Wales".

Denis Daly then moved to the United States, doing supply work in San Francisco and Sacramento. After a "family tragedy", he returned to Ireland in 1969, and then did supply work for a time in the Diocese of Northampton in England, and later in the Diocese of Down and Connor.

In 1978, the Bishop of Down and Connor, WJ Philbin, wrote to the Archbishop of Sydney, seeking a reference for Denis Daly in order to formally appoint Daly as a priest of the diocese. The Archbishop replied: "I have to say in confidence that he left the Archdiocese under a cloud because of a moral lapse". Denis Daly was turned down by the Bishop of Down and Connor, and was subsequently also turned down by the Archbishop of Dublin, Dermot Ryan.

Denis Daly did supply work in a number of parishes in Limerick in the early 1980s. There is no information relating to this time in the report by the Sydney archivist.

In 1986, Denis Daly sought work as a priest in London, and a priest at the Archbishop's House in Westminster wrote to Sydney, saying, "he seems to have a severe drink problem" and that priests who had worked with him briefly in London thought "that he does need some sort of treatment.

The final correspondence referred to in the archivist's report relates to Denis Daly's retirement. He wrote to the archdiocese in 1986 saying he had decided to retire, but needed a letter from the archdiocese saying he was not in receipt of any remuneration in order to qualify for social benefit in Ireland. The archdiocese duly provided this letter.

Denis Daly died in 1987.