Child report dismissed by diocese committee

 

A HIGHLY critical Catholic Church report on child protection practices in Cloyne diocese was dismissed last July by a committee of the diocese as "seriously flawed", "false" and "defamatory" of its members.

The diocese report said the finding of an independent board investigating the issue "seriously wrongs the diocese of Cloyne and our committee" and, that if issued, remedy would be sought in "either ecclesiastical or secular courts or both".

The report of the National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) followed an investigation last year by NBSC chief executive Ian Elliott into the management of two child protection cases in Cloyne. Completed on June 28th last it found that practices in Cloyne were "inadequate and in some respects dangerous".

Mr Elliott's report was made available by Bishop John Magee of Cloyne to his Case Management Advisory Committee, which advised him on child protection issues.

On July 9th, the committee wrote to the NBSC advising "your report makes assertions and assumptions that are false and it makes attributions that are defamatory of the members of Interdiocesan (between neighbouring Cloyne and Limerick dioceses) Case Management Advisory Committee. "It also makes very serious omissions which further distort the truth." It claimed State authorities "are limited in the extent and quality of the response available to them in the area of child protection" and that "furthermore, the HSE is limited in resources especially in the care of those involved in so called historic cases." It continued that "any analysis of the evil of child sexual abuse that does not recognise this reality is seriously flawed".

The committee's letter also suggested that the NBSC was "being manipulated" as, in the two cases concerned, complainants were taking civil actions against Cloyne diocese and were represented by the same firm of solicitors which also appeared connected to the One in Four group, which had brought one of the cases to the attention of State authorities.

Last night the solicitor concerned, Pearse Mehigan, described the committee's claim of manipulation as "preposterous". It "annoyed and angered" him. Maeve Lewis of the One in Four group said she was "absolutely shocked" at the claim, and pointed out that One in Four only worked with people individually.

The NBSC did not reply yesterday to queries about the letter.

Children's Minister Barry Andrews said he would tomorrow unveil a "comprehensive" response to the audit of child-protection policies in the Catholic Church, including a possible referral of the diocese of Cloyne to a commission of investigation.

The Cabinet tomorrow is expected to give the go-ahead for the publication of the Health Service Executive audit, which is believed to have raised concerns about the adequacy of child-protection practices in the diocese of Cloyne.