Minister criticises failure to alert gardaí

 

MINISTER FOR Justice Alan Shatter has highlighted the failure of the Catholic Church to bring child abuse allegations to the attention of gardaí, following the publication of previously redacted portions of the Cloyne report.

Mr Shatter welcomed the complete publication of the report in the aftermath of a High Court decision last week, and insisted that the Government was committed to doing everything in its power to ensure that children were protected from abuse.

“The publication of the redacted portions of the Cloyne report yet again details the failure of the church to comply with its own child abuse guidelines and its failure to ensure that allegations of abuse when first received were brought to the notice of An Garda Síochána,” Mr Shatter said.

“The litany of allegations made and the failure to appropriately report cases of abuse, reinforces the need to enact a statutory measure for the protection of children in the future.”

Mr Shatter said he hoped work on the Criminal Justice (Withholding Information on Crimes against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill 2011 would be complete in the new year. “I welcome the fact that we are able today to complete publication of the Cloyne report and reiterate the Government’s commitment to take all necessary action to ensure children are properly protected,” he added.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald also welcomed the publication of material that was previously redacted, but said she was “deeply disturbed” at the findings. She said she recognised that the publication of the material would be a painful reminder for those who suffered.

“I am deeply disturbed at the findings in this previously redacted chapter. My thoughts are with the complainants in this chapter and their families, all of whom must be commended for their courage and perseverance,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

She said the victims’ painful experiences, recounted in the report, were made more difficult by the “desperately poor” response they received from the church authorities in Cloyne.

“Time and time again they were disappointed and hurt once more. These families did not ask for this burden, it was placed on them by the irresponsibility of the church authorities in Cloyne.”

Ms Fitzgerald said it was clear that the priority of the church authorities in Cloyne was the protection of the institution of the church and not the protection of children in the diocese or the protection of other children.

“I want to make it very clear – it is absolutely unacceptable that child abuse allegations were not reported to the Gardaí and the HSE in a timely way by the church authorities. The handling of child abuse allegations is not discretionary; there is no choice, no exception.

“All allegations must be reported so that the allegation itself is investigated and any potential risk to other children is assessed.” Ms Fitzgerald said the most shocking aspect of the report, in her view, was the fact that the incidents it dealt with took place so recently.

“It is not dealing with terrible wrongs committed in the distant past but how the Diocese of Cloyne dealt with complaints made from 1996, the year in which the Catholic Church put in place detailed procedures for dealing with child sexual abuse.”

Legislation to put the State’s child protection rules, Children First, on a statutory basis would be introduced in the coming months, she said. “Significant work is complete on this legislation and I am submitting a further memorandum to the Government on it this week.” Ms Fitzgerald said she expected it would go before the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children in the next Dáil session for wider consultation.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on children Charlie McConalogue called for a commission of investigation to take a national co-ordinated approach to investigating the handling of allegations of abuse by church and State authorities in each diocese.

“What’s clear is that the continual drip-feeding of individual reports and portions of reports is not bringing any conclusion to this terrible issue,” he said.