Gilmore dismisses Vatican comments on abuse inquiry

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The Tánaiste today accused the Vatican of missing the point after it rejected claims it had frustrated a State inquiry into clerical abuse.

Speaking while attending a Labour parliamentary party meeting in Co Carlow, Eamon Gilmore said the real issue was the Catholic Church did not deal effectively with paedophile priests.

Amid calls for Taoiseach Enda Kenny to explain why he accused the Vatican of interfering with investigations as recently as three years ago, Mr Gilmore refused to back down. “I think it probably misses the point,” he said.

“There was the most horrific sexual abuse of children perpetrated by clerics. The Catholic Church did not deal with that as it should have dealt with it. Let’s not be distracted. Let’s not miss the point - no less charges were made. The Taoiseach and the Government stand over what was said,” the Minister for Foreign Affairs said.

The Government is to discuss the Vatican’s weekend response to the Cloyne report at its Cabinet meeting this week, although there was no indication yesterday it was backing down on its criticism of the Holy See. A spokesman said last night it intended taking time to consider the Vatican document and to compile a detailed response.

In a 25-page response to findings of the Cloyne report, the Vatican rejected accusations of interference with the Cloyne inquiry or when it came to the implementation of child protection guidelines in the State.

The Vatican also described as “unfounded” the Taoiseach's claim in the Dáil on July 20th that it attempted to frustrate an inquiry into abuse “as little as three years ago”.

The Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said the Taoiseach’s claim still “merits explanation”, and he hoped the Vatican’s response would “not be an occasion just for added polemics”.

However, Mr Gilmore today said: “When the Taoiseach spoke in the Dáil, the Taoiseach was speaking for the Government and he was speaking I believe for the people of this country.

“The abuse of children is not acceptable. The abuse of children is intolerable. And those who didn’t discharge their responsibility to make sure that it stopped, or that those who were responsible for it were brought to book, they have a case to answer and the Government makes no apology for stating that in the unambiguous terms that it was stated by the Taoiseach.”

Yesterday, Dr Martin had rejected as “a bit unfair” Mr Gilmore’s description of the Vatican’s response as “very technical and legalistic”.

Speaking in Dublin, he said: “The Vatican responded to the questions they were asked and some of the questions were about norms and legislation. It is a bit unfair to say that they gave technical answers – they were technical questions.”

But Mr Gilmore today said the Government was not going to be dragged into a prolonged semantic debate over the use of language. “As a Government we are entitled to and we will stand by the people who are victims in those cases, their families and we will ensure that that kind of abuse will not happen again,” the Tánaiste said.

Mr Gilmore said the Government was determined to press ahead with tough new child protection measures, including making it an offence to withhold information about crimes against children and introducing new vetting to allow “soft information” transfers.

In a brief comment on the Vatican response, shortly after it was published on Saturday, Mr Kenny said he stood over his July 20th address to the Dáil, in which he forcefully criticised the Vatican. Asked if he regretted what he had said, Mr Kenny responded: “No. I made my statement to the Dáil.”

He added: “The Vatican has responded. I want to read the report.”

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs was unable to say last night when or whether a new Irish envoy to the Holy See would be appointed to replace former ambassador Noel Fahey who retired during the summer. The department does not comment in advance of ambassadorial appointments.

Additional reporting: PA

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