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Father Brendan Smyth (1927-1997) was a Northern Ireland-born Norbertine Order Catholic priest.
In one of the worst cases of active paedophilia in the priesthood, Smyth systematically raped hundreds of children in parishes in Belfast, Dublin and the United States. The Norbertines, also known as the Presonstratensians, were alerted in the late 1940s that Smyth, who has joined the Order in 1945, had sexually abused children. However they declined to report him to the Garda Siochána (the Republic of Ireland's police force, or the Royal Ulster Constabulary (the RUC, the police force in Northern Ireland). Instead he was moved from parish to parish and between dioceses whenever allegations were made against him. In some cases, the Order did not inform the diocesan bishop in Ireland or the United States that the priest they had supplied to his diocese had a history of paedophilia and should be kept away from children.
His final exposure led to the collapse of an Irish government when the incompetent handling of an extradition request from the RUC by the Irish Attorney-General's office led to a further delay of some months in Smyth facing trial. An award-winning UTV Counterpoint programme on the affair by journalist Chris Moore (which was followed up by a book), accused the head of the Norbertines and the Cardinal Archbishop of Armagh of gross-mishandling of Smyth, the Norbertine's negligence and failure to tell others of his longstanding paedophilia enabling Smyth to sexually abuse large numbers of children freely for forty years. When Smyth some years later died in prison, the Norbertines felt it necessary to hold his funeral late at night, with his grave then covered in cement, to avoid drawing abusive or vandalise the grave. In the aftermath, in less than a decade, Ireland's Mass attendance rate plummeted from 68% to 48%.