By Caroline O'Doherty in The Irish Examiner
CONVICTED child sex abuser Fr Ivan Payne is to leave the priesthood in a bid to get free from the monitoring which he must submit to as a member of the church.
The paedophile priest fears for his safety after being hounded from his church-funded apartment in central Dublin by protesting residents this week, a fortnight after his release from the Curragh Prison.
It emerged yesterday he is in the process of laicisation, which means he will no longer be a priest, will cease to be the responsibility of the church and will have no obligation to submit to monitoring by the hierarchy.
He will have to maintain contact with gardaí in accordance with the rules of the sex offenders register, but as long as he keeps them informed of his whereabouts he will be free to live and work where he likes.
The laicisation process, which Payne initiated but which must be approved by Rome, is expected to be completed within the next few weeks. It is thought he may then try to settle abroad, leaving a question over the ongoing therapy he receives.
Payne, 59, who is a native of Dublin, was jailed for six years in 1998 after pleading guilty to 13 sample charges of sexual assault against nine boys aged 11 to 14 in the city parishes of Cabra and Sutton and at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin.
The extent of his attacks on children became known after one victim, Andrew Madden went public on a £30,000 pay-off he received from the Catholic Church in 1994.
Payne was released on October 26 after serving four-and-a-half years of the sentence and was immediately provided with a retired priest's allowance and accommodation at Clarion Quay in the Dublin docklands by the Dublin archdiocese.
This was intended as a temporary arrangement until he could be moved to a permanent location but after two nights of noisy protests by residents angry at discovering he was living there, he left the apartment and was believed to be staying with family.
Paul Bailey, director of the Child Protection Office set up by the Irish Bishops Conference, condemned the protests, which he said would only make it more difficult to keep tabs on offenders.
"Any type of protest that singles out a prisoner coming out of prison, especially a sex offender, is counter-productive to good child protection because it invariably forces the offender to go underground or flee the country to a situation where nobody can monitor them or supervise them," he said.
"We need to be careful. We know from research that social and emotional isolation play a part in offending. To prevent re-offending and to protect children we need to help these people live as normal a life as possible."