Cardinal's key adviser makes plea for new deal

 

ONE OF Cardinal Brady’s closest advisors, Fr Timothy Bartlett, has called on religious congregations to reopen negotiations with the State on their contribution to a compensation scheme for people abused in institutions run by them.

General assistant to the Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland and to Cardinal Seán Brady as president of the Irish Bishops Conference, Fr Bartlett said last night he was “speaking in a personal capacity”. However, he added: “I don’t apologise to anyone, internally or externally for what I said.”

He was referring to his comments on BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequenceprogramme yesterday. What he said was dictated by “my conscience”.

It is understood the Conference of Religious of Ireland (Cori) had refused to make a representative available to the programme and Fr Bartlett was then approached to appear.

He has been publicly supported by the Bishop of Down and Connor Most Rev Noel Treanor.

Supporting Fr Bartlett on RTÉ Radio’s This Weekprogramme yesterday, Bishop Noel Treanor said the church must take the necessary steps to address outstanding issues. Referring to Fr Bartlett, he said: I salute his courage and I support him in his comment.

Fr Bartlett also called for harmonisation of child protection measures in both jurisdictions. They are much stronger in Northern Ireland, he said.

Speaking to The Irish Timeshe said he had been making the point on Sunday Sequence“that the gospel calls us beyond the civil law and that the logic of that . . . was that the conversation about what in fact was appropriate in relation to the deal was that it should be reopened”.

This would enable “a transparent settlement that does justice to the common good and to the gospel, and to the generosity of the religious who inspired me in my life. But most importantly it addresses the needs of survivors of the horrible evil that we in the church allowed happen in our midst,” he said.

“The only way forward for the church is to demonstrate a clear and radical commitment to the gospel and to the founders of the religious orders who always put the care of the most vulnerable ahead of any material concern.”

Fr Bartlett also said he had “always argued for greater harmonisation in legislation North and South in respect of safeguarding children”.

He added: “The church participates fully and transparently in vetting processes in Northern Ireland, which are stronger than in the South and which are critical to the accountability of every voluntary organisation and church, and to ensuring society is putting safeguarding children first.

“I believe the laws in the South need to go further and this arises from experience of both . There is greater accountability in the North.”

He pointed out that vetting procedures in Northern Ireland involve the sharing of “soft information” with the new Independent Safeguarding Authority, which alone decides on a person’s suitability to work with children.

Engagement in these matters between the churches and the state in Northern Ireland “is much more comprehensive . . . ensuring best practice,” he said.

The Northern Ireland system for child protection was put in place by Ian Elliott, now chief executive of the Catholic Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC), which exposed the inadequacy of child protection measures in the Cloyne diocese.

Fr Bartlett helped set up the NBSC as well as prepare the Catholic Church’s latest guidelines on child protection. Prior to that he and Mr Elliott had many dealings in Northern Ireland on church-state child protection issues