'A collar will protect no criminal,' warns Minister for Justice


GOVERNMENT REACTION:MINISTER FOR Justice Dermot Ahern has warned that “a collar will protect no criminal”.

At Government Buildings as the Commission of Investigation Report into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin was released, Mr Ahern said there was no hiding place for those who had committed crimes against children.

“No government can guarantee that in the future there won’t be evil people who will do evil things,” he said.

“But the era where evil people could do so under the cover of the cloth, facilitated and shielded from the consequences by their authorities, while the lives of children were ruined with such cruelty, is over for good.

“The bottom line is this: a collar will protect no criminal.”

Mr Ahern appealed to people who had any information about abuse to contact gardaí.

He said perpetrators of abuse must be pursued relentlessly, regardless of when the abuse occurred, and brought to justice.

“They must come to know that there is no hiding place.”

The Minister said he and the Garda Commissioner regretted profoundly that An Garda Síochána had not pursued allegations appropriately in some cases in the past.

Any garda who obstructed the investigation of a perpetrator “should be prosecuted and should have been prosecuted”.

He said the Garda Inspectorate would now review arrangements for Garda handling of complaints of sexual abuse against children.

Mr Ahern said everyone had to reflect on how a situation came about in former times that a culture of deference to the Catholic Church in some cases had the effect of placing the behaviour of some clergy beyond the reach of the law.

It was not acceptable that institutions behaved or were treated as being above the law of the State.

“This is a republic – the people are sovereign – and no institution, no agency, no church can be immune from that fact.”

Mr Ahern said the findings of the report would be disillusioning for many people. It catalogued “evil after evil” committed in the name of what was “perversely” seen as a greater good.

There was no escaping the irony that the church, motivated partly by a desire to avoid scandal, in fact created a scandal on an astonishing scale.

He said the church should apologise to the people of Ireland, adding “as a father and as a member of this community”, he had felt a growing sense of revulsion and anger while reading the report.

Minister of State for Children Barry Andrews said successive governments had failed in their responsibilities as legislators to put in place comprehensive child protection laws.

“Where there still remains a gap in child welfare protection legislation, the Government will take the necessary steps to put the appropriate legislation in place.”

Mr Andrews said work was well under way on preparing legislation to provide a statutory framework to allow bodies to share information pertaining to deviant sexual behaviour to the relevant authorities.

He said the heads of a Bill were being prepared by his office in consultation with the Department of Justice and he expected to bring them to Government soon.