By Caroline O'Doherty in The Irish Examiner
A PRIEST who sexually abused boys in Co Wicklow is back living in the region in the care of the church and ministering to retired clergy.
Fr Thomas Naughton, who assaulted altar boys in at least three parishes in the Dublin Archdiocese, resides in semi-retirement at the headquarters of St Patrick's Missionary Society in Kiltegan village, in the west of the county.
His abuse of altar boys was discovered in another west Wicklow village, Valleymount, in the early 1980s, but he was removed from parish work only in 1988 after complaints by other victims in Dublin city parishes Donnycarney and Ringsend, where he was subsequently posted.
He was sentenced to three and a half years' jail in 1998 after pleading guilty to six charges involving four boys, but it emerged at the time of his trial that he had also molested boys in west Wicklow. Several victims from the area now plan to make formal complaints.
But meanwhile, Fr Naughton, now 71, is living near Valleymount in the care of the Kiltegan Missionary
Fathers, with whom he began his religious career in the early 1950s.
He is under supervision and not allowed to associate with children, but he has not been defrocked and tends to the spiritual needs of the elderly, returned missionaries.
Fr Naughton was one of eight priests named by last week's Prime Time television programme on cover-ups within the Catholic Church.
Since then, Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick, who was responsible for the west Wicklow parishes at the time Fr Naughton worked in Valleymount, has admitted he was told of concerns about his behaviour there in 1983 but said he found no evidence to back up the complaints.
Fr Naughton was removed from the village in 1984 but locals were astounded to hear he had subsequently been appointed to serve in Donnycarney and Ringsend.
He was sent for treatment in Britain in 1988 before returning to live in Kiltegan, where he lived a quiet life for
almost ten years before facing prosecution.
Valleymount publican John Brennan, who led the push to have Fr Naughton removed from the parish, said yesterday the priest should now have to face his many other victims.
"He's an old man now, he's been given one sentence and he won't get another, but if the other victims' complaints were laid against him, he would have to plead guilty and then at least there would be formal recognition of what happened to these young people," Mr Brennan said.
He also said he wanted those who enabled the priest to continue sexually abusing children in Dublin after his removal from Valleymount to be fully investigated.
"We hear a lot about paedophilia and inappropriate behaviour, but this is child rape, and if someone enabled a rape to take place, they should have to answer for that."
Mr Brennan said there were signs of a backlash against victims.
"I had to pull someone up for saying it was all about compo. None of the young people I dealt with had any
interest in money. They wanted justice. It may turn out the only way they get justice is through a civil case, and if that's so, they deserve anything they get. They have been through so much."