Andrews opposed to extension of abuse inquiry

Fri, Dec 24, 2010, 00:00

MINISTER OF State for Children Barry Andrews has said the Murphy commission’s remit should not be extended to investigate other dioceses as it was unlikely to teach the authorities anything new.

Speaking ahead of the presentation to the Government yesterday of the commission’s report into the Diocese of Cloyne, Mr Andrews said extending the investigation to other dioceses would be a hugely time-consuming exercise without much benefit.

“I’m not convinced the length of time and the expense would teach us any more than we know already. Anyone that has committed an offence can be prosecuted in the normal way. Any child exposed to risk will have to be protected by the HSE. I don’t think any further inquiry will teach us anything new after Cloyne,” he said.

The Cloyne report was presented to Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern yesterday but it is unlikely to be published for some time. A spokesman for the Minister said it would now go to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Attorney General, the Garda and then to the High Court.

“It’s a lengthy process. You’d be lucky to see it before Easter,” he said last night.

The report follows an investigation by the commission into the handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations by church and State authorities in the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne. It covered allegations made between January 1996 and February 2009.

The commission’s report on the handling of clerical child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin has already been published.

Fine Gael’s spokesman on children Charlie Flanagan made a call earlier this week for the remit of the commission to be extended to all uninvestigated dioceses in the State.

Mr Andrews is awaiting details of a HSE audit of child protection practices in church dioceses. And it is up to the Government to decide whether to extend the commission’s remit beyond Cloyne on the basis of this HSE audit. But the audit, which was initially expected to be concluded last December, is still not complete.

Mr Andrews said he was “frustrated” at the lengthy delay and he now expected the audit to be concluded in February or March. He said the delay was caused by the huge difficulty in cross-checking claims of child abuse between the HSE and the gardaí. Both organisations use different systems to record child abuse claims – the gardaí record the names of alleged perpetrators, while the HSE records the victims’ names.

“It is unfortunate that it has taken as long as it has,” said Mr Andrews. “However, it is one of those situations where you want to get it right rather than get it out straight away.”

In December 2009 Phil Garland, HSE assistant national director, children and families social services, wrote to all Catholic bishops seeking further information about statistics supplied from the dioceses about allegations of clerical child sex abuse. He sought the names of alleged abusers from the bishops to make it easier to conduct the audit.

The HSE said last night it expected the audit would be finished in the spring. “It is of paramount importance that the audit is complete, accurate . . . and fully meets the criteria set out by the Minister for Health and Children who commissioned this audit,” said the HSE.

However, even before receiving the audit results from the HSE, Mr Andrews said he felt it was unlikely the Government would agree to a further inquiry into another diocese beyond Cloyne. He said the commission’s Dublin investigation was a representative sample and not an attempt to discover all the truths of a situation.

“It was simply to say what are the issues, what are the problems, where did it go wrong, what are the legislative requirements? We have all that information now and we will have further from the Cloyne commission report.”