Government will respond to calls after abuse audit

Wed, Dec 21, 2011, 00:00

THE GOVERNMENT will await the outcome of an audit of Catholic dioceses before responding to calls for further inquiries into the church’s handling of sexual abuse complaints, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald has said.

Responding to a written Dáil question from Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley, Ms Fitzgerald said she was awaiting receipt of the national audit of dioceses by the Health Service Executive.

Mr Stanley had asked if there were any plans to establish a statutory inquiry to investigate sex abuse complaints and concerns about a “former archbishop of Dublin”.

He was referring to a recent report in The Irish Times that a cleric referred to in a supplementary report published by the Murphy commission on July 13th last was the late archbishop John Charles McQuaid.

The supplementary report disclosed that the commission addressed two abuse complaints against the unnamed archbishop, as well as one expression of concern.

Ms Fitzgerald said she had seen “the recent media reports” in which the individual referred to by Mr Stanley was named. She noted “the identity of the individual was not disclosed in the commission’s supplementary report or any subsequent communications by the commission of which I am aware”.

She continued that, following publication of the Murphy report in November 2009, it was referred by then minister for justice Dermot Ahern to Assistant Garda Commissioner John Mahony, who had been specifically appointed to examine the report.

The report dealt with the handling by the Dublin archdiocese of the sex abuse complaints against priests.

Ms Fitzgerald said the supplementary report was also referred to Mr O’Mahony “who is examining how complaints were handled and investigated by the church and State authorities. Such matters are still under consideration by An Garda Síochána.

“The HSE, which has statutory responsibility for child welfare and protection, has been conducting a national audit of all Catholic dioceses and religious orders. It expects to be in a position in the spring of 2012 to furnish a report to me on the diocesan element of this audit.”

It was her intention to publish the HSE’s report.

“It is expected that the findings of the Ferns, Dublin and Cloyne reports; the reports of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church and the HSE audit of Catholic dioceses will inform the fullest consideration of the matter,” she said.

In the meantime, she said, the Government is to ensure that all child protection concerns are responded to and acted upon. “I am committed to strengthening the arrangements for the reporting of concerns of abuse by putting key elements of the Children First national guidance on a statutory footing,” she said.

“This legislation will require all sectors and organisations working with children, including the faith sector, to put in place robust safeguarding arrangements.”

Yesterday the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said it was “extremely concerned” about the findings in redacted parts of chapter nine of the Cloyne report which were published on Monday. It “yet again highlights the failure of the church to adequately deal with allegations of abuse”, it said.

Acknowledging and welcoming the steps the church and Government have taken in recent years to address child protection and welfare, it called for the Children First guidelines to be placed on a statutory footing, the implementation of legislation on withholding information, and the setting of a date for a referendum to enshrine children’s rights in the Constitution.