Minister dismisses abuse cable 'sideshow'


THE WIKILEAKS disclosure that the Government did not press the Vatican to co-operate with the inquiry into the Catholic Church’s handling of child abuse was yesterday dismissed as a “sideshow” by the relevant Minister.

There has also been strong reaction to the disclosure from victims of clerical sexual abuse. Fianna Fáil had been too close to the Catholic Church through the recent years of clerical child sex abuse revelations and this had inhibited it from doing what should have been done, Dublin abuse victim Andrew Madden said last night.

He was commenting after weekend WikiLeaks disclosures that requests to the Vatican for information from the Murphy commission “offended many” there who felt the Irish Government had “failed to respect and protect Vatican sovereignty during the (commission) investigations”.

US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks also maintained the Irish Government acceded to Vatican pressure on the matter.

Minister of State for Children Barry Andrews said the fact the contents of a cable from the US embassy in the Holy See was published did not mean it was true, or showed in any way the Government did not want to co-operate with the Murphy commission’s investigation into how the Archdiocese of Dublin handled complaints of abuse made against its clergy.

Mr Andrews said the contents of the cable, as published, were a sideshow. He said it focused completely on how the information from the Vatican was to be elicited.

He said the important thing was that the information came to light, not how that occurred. “To me it was a complete sideshow, whether came through the Irish Government or though the [Murphy] commission,” he told RTÉ’s This Week.

“The issue was, can we get the Vatican co-operating with the inquiry? As you know, Micheál Martin brought the papal nuncio into his office in November last year and told him that it was not acceptable that they were not providing the information.”

He said the Vatican has subsequently agreed to set up an inquiry and said it will publish a report.

Mr Madden said all statutory inquiries into clerical child sex abuse set up by Fianna Fáil-led governments had been in response to media reports and pressure from victims such as himself, rather than resulting from any initiative by Fianna Fáil, he said.

“Fianna Fáil has been in office for 99 per cent of the revelations and could have set up inquiries as far back in 1998, after Brendan Smyth and after it emerged that Ivan Payne had abused other children after me, but it didn’t do so. The Catholic vote was more important,” he said. As an example, he noted the Murphy commission came into being after the Prime Timeprogramme Cardinal Secretsin October 2002, because it was “expedient to do so”, he said.

Mr Madden called on Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin to publish the letter by the Irish Ambassador to the Holy See, Noel Fahey, sent in reply to correspondence from Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. The cardinal had advised that any requests related to the Murphy investigation should come through diplomatic channels. Mr Madden said there was nothing new in the WikiLeaks revelations, “just a reminder of attitudes at the heart of the Catholic Church”.

Maeve Lewis of the One in Four group thought it “shameful” the Vatican “should hide behind diplomatic protocol” in the context. She found the Government’s approach to the matter disappointing.

Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre said it was heartbreaking for victims to be reminded of the church’s “betrayal”.

The centre offers a helpline at 1800 778888.