A history of clerical abuse inquiries


The report into the investigation into allegations of clerical child sex abuse in Cloyne is the fourth inquiry into the affairs of Catholic Church in Ireland to have been published within the past six years.

Murphy Report

Full title: Report of the Commission of Investigation, Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin

Published: November 2009

Background: In 2002 RTÉ broadcast a series produced by Mary Raftery entitled Cardinal Secrets, which investigated the handling of child sex abuse allegations in the Dublin Catholic Archdiocese. Following the broadcast the Government pledged in November that year to establish a full independent judicial inquiry into the archdiocese’s handling of abuse allegations.

This set in motion establishment of the Commission of Investigation Act 2004 that in turn led to the setting up in 2006 of an investigation into the handling of allegations of clerical sex abuse in the Dublin archdiocese by church and State authorities from January 1st, 1975, until April 30th, 2004, when Cardinal Desmond Connell stepped down as Archbishop of Dublin.

Among the findings: Four successive archbishops of the Dublin Catholic Archdiocese handled allegations of child sexual abuse badly and with "denial, arrogance and cover-up" and did not report their knowledge of abuse to gardaí over a period of three decades.

The structures and rules of the Catholic Church facilitated the cover-up of abuse.

Ryan Report

Full title: Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse

Published: May 2009

Background: The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse was set up in 2000 to investigate industrial schools, reformatories, orphanages, institutions for children with disabilities and ordinary day schools from 1914, although the bulk of its work addressed the period from the 1930s to the 1970s.

In May 1999 the then taoiseach Bertie Ahern apologised on behalf of the State to people who had been abused as children in these residential institutions. The apology followed the broadcast of the RTÉ series States of Fear, which was produced by journalist Mary Raftery.

Among the findings: Thousands of children suffered physical and sexual abuse over several decades in 216 residential institutions run by religious orders implicating over 800 priests, brothers, nuns and lay people.

The report criticised the Department of Education for failing to carry out its “statutory duty of inspection” out of deference towards the religious congregations.

Ferns Report

Published: October 2005

Background: In March 2002 a screening BBC broadcast a documentary called Suing the Pope, featuring the testimony of abuse victim Colm O’Gorman and three other men. That April following a meeting with Mr O’Gorman, then minister for health Micheál Martin set up an inquiry to investigate how allegations of clerical child sex abuse were handled by both church and State authorities in the Ferns diocese between 1962 and 2002.

Among the findings: The report strongly criticised the handling of the Catholic Church of child sexual abuse over four decades having heard allegations by over 100 individuals against 21 priests among them Seán Fortune who was involved in a number of rapes and sexual assaults around the country over a period of two decades.

The report found former bishop of Ferns Brendan Comiskey “failed to recognise the paramount need to protect children, as a matter of urgency, from potential abusers” and accused him of providing erroneous information to one garda inquiry and failing to co-operate fully with another.