Catholic Church child protection board received 252 abuse allegations

Great majority of allegations arose from incidents that took place in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s

Blue ribbons are tied to the Ha'Penny Bridge, Dublin, to remember the victims of clerical sex abuse ahead of the visit to Ireland by Pope Francis in 2018. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

A total of 252 allegations against Catholic Church personnel were reported to the Maynooth-based National Board for Safeguarding Children in the year to the end of March.

This is broadly in line with the 251 allegations that were received by the board in the previous 12 months.

The figures are recorded in the board’s annual report published on Wednesday.

Of the 252 allegations it received up to March 31st, 183 involved sexual abuse with an additional 26 allegations of physical abuse, 17 of emotional abuse, one allegation of neglect and one of boundary violations. There were 24 allegations of other types of abuse.


Of the clergy accused, 65 were diocesan with 187 members of religious congregations, nine of whom are in prison while 101 of the accused are deceased. Of those making the allegations, 167 were male and 41 female.

The great majority of allegations arose from incidents that took place in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s – 47, 92 and 57, respectively. However, four allegations relate to the year 2000 or since, with two related to sexual abuse, one such in 2023. A further allegation of physical abuse is also from the 2000s.

In the year to the end of March, the board received 306 requests for safeguarding advice, up from 282 the previous year. All 26 Catholic dioceses in Ireland have now had reviews by the board completed under its, latest, 2016 policy. Those dioceses have also completed an annual self-audit, as have 50 religious congregations. Ten religious congregations are in the process of completing a self-audit. Such self-audits complement reviews by the board.

Last year the board concluded its revision of Safeguarding Children: Policy and Standards for the Catholic Church in Ireland. This was approved by relevant church authorities and came into effect on Tuesday of this week.

The board’s 2024 report is the final one of retiring chief executive Teresa Devlin, who has held that post for 10 years following a five-year period as director of safeguarding. “Many are still suffering because of child abuse in the church. We cannot afford to think that we have finished our work in this area in Ireland,” she said.

She acknowledged “with gratitude the caring approach of most church personnel in response to complainants”. These were “the people who, on every occasion they receive a new notification, remember the child who, instead of being cherished, was abused. I applaud their compassion when dealing with the hurt and wounded adult that child became.”

Reflection on her years with the board, she said “the finest moments for me were engaging with children and their parents/carers, and with complainants of abuse”. Such meetings had often “been filled with sadness and I am not embarrassed to admit that I shed many tears when reflecting on the trauma caused by the abuse of children in the Catholic Church”.

She was also “heartened when engaging with priests, religious and lay personnel as they pick up the broken pieces after allegations are made”.

Board chairman Justice Garret Sheehan thanked Ms Devlin “for her outstanding leadership” over the past 15 years.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times