Diocese 'a model of best practice' in child safety


KILMORE:THE DIOCESE of Kilmore is a “model of best practice” in child protection, mainly due to the “personal commitment and diligence” of Bishop Leo O’Reilly, a review into safeguarding children has found.

Allegations against seven priests received since 1975 were identified by the board for the Review of Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in the Kilmore diocese.

Kilmore covers parishes in Co Cavan and parts of counties Leitrim, Fermanagh, Meath and Sligo. Some allegations related back to incidents in the 1940s.

One priest in the diocese was convicted of indecently assaulting a young boy and is serving a sentence but has been laicised, the board said. Three of the priests against whom allegations were made are deceased, two are no longer in ministry and two are still in ministry.

There were no cases of a failure to report or address matters when they came to light and all the allegations were reported to the Garda and the Health Service Executive (or health boards), the review found.

There were no examples of “poor practice” since Bishop O’Reilly was appointed in 1998. The board praised the bishop’s approach as an “excellent example” for others to follow.

The review described the response to the case of “notorious” serial offender Fr Brendan Smyth as “inadequate”, as it ”was felt to display a disregard for the safety and well-being of vulnerable young people”.

Smyth was a member of the Cavan-based Norbertine Canons religious order, who ministered within the diocese.

His case was not included in the board’s statistics because it had already commanded considerable public interest, but his files were read by the board, the review said.

The reports noted the response to Smyth could not be attributed “in any way” to Bishop O’Reilly or anyone currently involved in a safeguarding role.

Smyth was moved from ministry but later returned, until he was the focus of new allegations that led to his conviction and imprisonment, the report said. Smyth was later convicted of more than 90 counts of sexual abuse and died in prison in 1997.

His case represented “important learning “ for all involved in safeguarding children in the church of the “tragic consequences of failing to recognise the risks posed by those that habitually seek to harm children and young people.”

Bishop O’Reilly “deeply regretted” that Smyth was able to “continue to abuse in his position for so long”, he said on Northern Sound radio yesterday.

He hoped the victims would take “some measure of hope from the changes that have taken place”. The bishop said there had been no prosecution in the cases of the two priests still in ministry, which had been examined by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The Health Service Executive had “concluded there wasn’t even the necessity for a risk assessment” and a church investigation into each case was closed, he said.

Bishop O’Reilly said his thoughts were “very much with survivors of abuse”.