McAleese praises Garda chief's swift, honest apology


PRESIDENT'S SPEECH:PRESIDENT MARY McAleese has commended Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy for his “immediate” apology following the publication of the Dublin diocesan report, which described the response by gardaí to complaints against priests as inadequate in some cases.

Speaking at an event in Templemore, Mrs McAleese said the commissioner had “honestly acknowledged that people who sought assistance from An Garda Síochána didn’t always receive the level of response or protection which any citizen in trouble is entitled to expect.

“That’s an awfully difficult thing for a commissioner to have to say and I’m sure that it seared your soul to have to say it and yet it is very important that it was said,” Mrs McAleese said yesterday, addressing a conference in Templemore.

“People now demand that searing honesty,” she said.

“It’s the only thing that allows us to move beyond the mess and move on and do the right thing.

“You were right to express your deep sorrow and to reassure us on your determination to make those days of clientelism and cosiness between pillars of the community a history,” said Mrs McAleese.

The President commended Commissioner Murphy on his “determination” that An Garda Síochána should “pursue all those who break the law without fear or favour and to protect our children who were let down by past bad practice”.

Responding to the President’s address, Commissioner Murphy thanked her for her “kind words” and said he believed “the darkness that fell over our nation can only be lifted by investigating and addressing this issue in an open way”.

He repeated his assertion that An Garda Síochána would “not show any undue deference to any section of society because that is what is necessary for us to move forward”.

The Minister of State for Children, Barry Andrews, speaking at a conference in Dublin Castle, said it would be “amazing” if there were no consequences for people who were the subject of adverse findings in the report. Asked about the position of Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray, the Minister said: “The Taoiseach obviously last week in response to the Murphy commission indicated that it wasn’t for the Government to decide on the ecumenical appointments one way or the other . . . Nevertheless, I think it’s everybody’s view that if adverse findings are made against an individual in a commission of inquiry then it would be amazing that there be no consequences for them.

“Clearly pressure had been exerted from within the church on Bishop Murray, it would appear, and those consequences may come to pass. Obviously we don’t know exactly the nature of that.”

However, Mr Andrews said he “would be very concerned if the entire response in terms of our own public debate on the entire Murphy commission is about an individual appointment or otherwise where we continue to have a serious child sexual abuse problem in this country and even in the past clerical child sexual abuse was a fraction of what was going on and it is unfortunate that where we have an opportunity to think about how do we improve things in the future that we would be concentrating on something that quite frankly is very much a part of it, albeit not a great part of it in my view.”

He said he was also disappointed at the absence of a response from Rome. “Naturally we would expect there to be some reflections from Rome on what it means for the delivery of safe practices for children in this country in terms of the Catholic Church and how they are as patrons of our national schools and how they are going to provide us with the reassurance that they have and will comply with best practice in child protection in the future.”