Further child safety inquiry not ruled out

Fri, Dec 16, 2011, 00:00

MINISTER FOR Children Frances Fitzgerald is not ruling out a State commission to investigate child protection practices in Catholic Church dioceses.

Ms Fitzgerald said, however, it would be “rash and ill-considered” to immediately establish that kind of inquiry, given the imminent audit of all 24 dioceses which would undoubtedly inform the Government on how best to proceed.

“While I am certainly not ruling out further investigations, I would make the point that, here in Ireland, 1,000 victims have told their story very poignantly to the confidential committee of the Ryan report, the most extensive listening exercise done within Europe,” she added.

Ms Fitzgerald said she believed there was scope in the church and elsewhere to consider further how the experiences and the voices of victims could be heard, as they should be heard.

Ms Fitzgerald said the Health Service Executive, which had statutory responsibility for child welfare and protection, had been conducting a national audit of all dioceses and religious orders.

It expected to be in a position next spring to furnish a report to her on the audit’s diocesan element which she would publish.

She had stated, she added, that the need for follow-up action would be informed by its findings.

Calling for a State commission, Fianna Fáil spokesman on children Charlie McConalogue said it was critical that the voices of the victims, failed by church and State, should be heard to enable them bring closure.

Mr McConalogue, who represents Donegal North East, said the Minister’s response to the recent publication of the six reports, of which the Raphoe report particularly stood out in terms of the practices employed there, had been too vague and too weak.

Ms Fitzgerald said she acknowledged the great courage shown by victims of clerical abuse in coming forward. “If the deputy’s government had published the reports, and the audit when it was done, the current audit by the HSE would have been available and up to date,” she added.

It was delayed until the spring because it was important, when published, that it gave an accurate, up-to-date picture, not a historical picture of what the current situation was regarding the audit.

Mr McConalogue said he disagreed entirely with the Minister that they should wait any longer and that the victims, whosee abuse was outlined in recent reports, should also have to wait.

“The public, members of the church and, in particular, victims are tired of the drip-feed of reports,” he added. “We need a comprehensive way that will deal with it, for once and for all.”

Ms Fitzgerald said that it was important to realise that there had been quite a number of investigations. There had been the Cloyne and Murphy reports and other reports.

It was also important to point out, she said, that due to the number of clerics against whom complaints and allegations were made, in certain circumstances, for practical purposes, it had been necessary to investigate a representative sample.

In Dublin, for example, a representative sample of 46 priests were investigated out of a total of 102 falling within the commission’s remit. Other allegations might have fallen outside the time period, he added.

Ms Fitzgerald said the investigations could not relate to the individual suffering of all those who were abused.