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Tuesday 22 August 2017

Watchdog lays blame for poor management at door of old guard

The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church published reviews yesterday of six dioceses. Greg Harkin, Anita Guidera, Colm Kelpie and Brian McDonald outline the key findings

DONEGAL probably has the worst record for clerical child sex abuse in Ireland, Bishop Philip Boyce has admitted.

The Bishop of Raphoe also revealed that 20 people working for the church in the diocese, which covers most of the county, had still not been vetted.

A report by the church's own watchdog warned that some priests had expressed reluctance to undergo garda security clearance.

Bishop Boyce said he "didn't think" anyone had refused and that he did not know the breakdown of priests and lay people who had so far declined to return vetting papers.

The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCC) gave little detail on 52 known allegations against suspected abusers in Co Donegal since 1975.

More than 20 of the complaints were against notorious paedophile priest Eugene Greene, who abused dozens of youngsters while being moved from parish to parish.

Asked about the prevalence of clerical child abuse cases in the diocese, Bishop Boyce accepted it was proportionately higher than many other dioceses and "probably" the worst in the country.

Bishop Boyce, his predecessor Seamus Hegarty, who retired as Bishop of Derry earlier this month due to ill-health, and his predecessor, Bishop Anthony McFeely were all singled out for mishandling complaints against clergy since the 1970s.

The report found a priest put in charge of investigating sex abuse complaints as recently as January 2009 admitted he was "ill at ease" with the role, as alleged abusers were often life-long friends.

DERRY

NO priest in this diocese was convicted of child abuse over the past 36 years, despite dozens of allegations and a number of out-of-court settlements.

An audit of the diocese, which includes the Inishowen peninsula in Co Donegal, revealed that priests accused of abuse in historic cases had not been "robustly challenged or adequately managed" but were moved elsewhere.

Newly appointed diocesan administrator Monsignor Eamon Martin admitted that the blame for moving suspect priests on, rested with the bishop of the day.

"Responsibility for all these decisions rests with those who were in charge. The bishop was responsible for taking these decisions," he said.

He pointed out that allegations of abuse covered by the audit, dated back 60 years through the tenure of three serving bishops including Bishop Farren, Dr Edward Daly and the now retired Dr Seamus Hegarty.

In all, 31 allegations against 23 priests were made to RUC, PSNI and gardai between 1975 and 2009 but there have been no convictions.

Msgr Martin admitted that a "small number" of out-of-court financial settlements had been made by the diocese as a result of civil proceedings.

ARDAGH & CLONMACNOISE

JUST one priest has been convicted of clerical sex abuse over the last 35 years, auditors revealed.

The review, which examined records across Co Longford and parishes in surrounding counties from 1975, found:

•Allegations were made against 13 clerics.

•Fourteen cases were reported to gardai, with one suspect never made known to diocesan officials, and nine were referred to the local health board.

•Just one serving priest was alive at the time of the review, one had left the priesthood and 12 were dead. Nine of those had died before any allegation was made.

•The only priest who had been convicted of an offence against a child has since died.

•Two clerics who were not of the diocese but still reside there were subject to allegations arising from their past ministry.

Bishop Colm O'Reilly said he was conscious people who suffered because of wrongdoing by church personnel would be affected by having to think again about an experience that pained them deeply.

The NBSCCC made 10 recommendations, including that the bishop hold bi-annual meetings with Health Service Executive staff and gardai and that he consider appointing a female lay person to a supporting role.

DROMORE

THIRTY-five allegations have been reported against 10 priests over a 36-year period. The watchdog said seven of those priests were still alive but had left the priesthood, though three exercised limited ministry under tightly controlled conditions and never to youngsters.

The NBSCCC said Dromore Bishop John McAreavey had dealt personally with many of the alleged victims and their families.

No priest in the diocese has been convicted of committing an offence against a child between 1975 and the beginning of the review last June.

But the reviewing team said they were satisfied that all the allegations had been passed on to the authorities.

Bishop McAreavey said the inadequate response by church leaders to child clerical abuse had caused deep distress and dismay.

The review of policy and practice was carried out last June over a two-day period at the request of Bishop McAreavey, and dated back to January 1975.

The bishop has been in office since 1999 and most of the cases had been handled under his leadership.

The team criticised Bishop McAreavey's predecessor, the late Bishop Francis Gerard Brooks, who had handled some cases, claiming too much emphasis was placed on maintaining the good name of the accused priest, rather than ensuring the safety of children in some instances.

TUAM

SERIOUS harm was done to children by "a few priests" in the archdiocese, the safeguarding practice review revealed.

The audit also concluded many of the cases that were managed by Archbishop Michael Neary's predecessors contained practices that would be entirely unacceptable today.

But since he had taken over as Archbishop of Tuam in 1995, Dr Neary had made child safety a priority and all allegations had been promptly passed to the gardai.

Despite the failings in the 1970s and 80s, the NBSCCC noted a change in attitude since 1995 and found "a willingness to recognise and learn from any mistakes".

Allegations have been made against 18 priests since January, 1975 and two had been convicted of offences against children or young person.

The archbishop's approach to allegations has been marked by thorough inquiries, considerable interrogation of complaints, industrious and diligent analysis and a quiet resolve.

However, the NBSCCC found resistance when the archbishop asked priests to step aside.

KILMORE

DESPITE seven allegations of abuse against priests of the diocese, an audit has found child protection measures were a model of best practice within the church.

The review, which examined records from 1975, found:

•All seven allegations were reported to gardai and health board officials, but three of the clergy had died.

•Two of those still living were out of ministry or left the priesthood.

•One paedophile priest who was convicted of abusing a minor remains in prison.

•Another priest who lived in the diocese, but never worked there, was also known to be the subject of an allegation arising from their past ministry.

Separately, the church watchdog was highly critical of the diocesan response to notorious paedophile priest Fr Brendan Smyth, which it found was inadequate and displayed a disregard for the safety and well-being of vulnerable young people.

The NBSCCC said none of the issues raised could be attributed in any way to the present bishop, Leo O'Reilly.

Irish Independent

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