Government seeks Vatican assurance over child protection


THE GOVERNMENT wants an “absolute assurance” from the Vatican that it will fully comply with and implement its own guidelines in the area of childcare, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has said.

He also said it was imperative that “where there’s a report that a child has been abused or where there’s a genuine concern that someone within the church is abusing children, that is reported to the civil authorities”.

He was speaking as he published the draft heads or introductory elements of legislation to place the vetting of persons working with children or vulnerable adults on a statutory basis.

Earlier Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said a response from the Vatican was still awaited to the findings of the report on clerical child sex abuse in the Cork diocese of Cloyne, published a fortnight ago. The Vatican is expected to report by the end of the month.

Ms Fitzgerald said the Government had asked for an urgent response to the report’s findings. “I really don’t know how the Vatican will interpret urgent but would hope that we get a response as soon as possible.”

The report showed that child protection practices were not followed through and cases were not reported to the Garda, she said.

“But I would equally say the State has work to do when it comes to providing high-quality care for children.” Putting the Children First guidelines on a statutory basis would ensure “there is a legal obligation on everybody to report abuse”.

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte called for a “more constructive response” from the Vatican. He said it was “right that the Government should assert its primacy”. Mr Rabbitte who, as opposition spokesman for justice, said he had pursued the “sweetheart deal” former taoiseach Bertie Ahern and former minister Michael Woods had done with the religious orders on redress for survivors of abuse in industrial schools, reformatories and orphanages. “I felt it was unfair then and it was unfair now.”

The other issue of the church-State relationship was the Vatican “effectively seeking to frustrate an inquiry established by Government in this Republic”.