Wednesday 13 December 2017

Archbishop Martin says it would be 'disaster' if church watchdog loses trust

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin at mass at the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin. Picture: Arthur Carron
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin at mass at the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin. Picture: Arthur Carron
Ian Elliott, former head of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church

Sarah MacDonald

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin says he is "very concerned" about fresh claims by the former CEO of the Catholic Church watchdog, Ian Elliot, on safeguarding children.

The Catholic Church's most outspoken bishop on clerical abuse said: "If there is wrong on any side, it should be admitted."

He told the Irish Independent that it would be "disastrous" if trust was lost in the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCCI).

Mr Elliott has told the Government that serious concerns he had about the handling of an abuse case were omitted from a later report.

He alleges the Diocese of Down and Connor blocked the release of information it held about the handling of the case of ex-priest Jim Donaghy, who was jailed for 10 years in 2012 for abusing two altar boys and a trainee priest.

The leader of the church in Dublin said he was "very concerned about the level of controversy that is now emerging" over the NBSCCCI.

Dr Martin said it was "up to everybody who has the real interests of the church in Ireland and of safeguarding children in Ireland that robust steps be taken quickly to bring us back to a situation in which people can have trust in the National Board".

"If there have been problems, they should be investigated. There should be a mechanism to deal with a problem and to come to an agreement about this," he said.

Abuse survivor Marie Collins earlier told RTE's 'This Week' her feeling was that the National Board "is not independent" because the board "is selected by the hierarchy and funded by the hierarchy".

She warned that if there was "any chance at all that audits are being influenced, then it (the NBSCCCI) is worthless".

Mrs Collins said she wanted the State to step in and, as in the Louise O'Keeffe case, become responsible for the safety of children in the Catholic Church.

"It is they (the State) who should be auditing child safety in dioceses and every other part of society," Mrs Collins told RTE.

But speaking at St Mary's Pro Cathedral, where he welcomed 73 new members into the Catholic Church in Dublin from 18 different nationalities, Dr Martin described the work of the National Board as "extremely important for the church in Ireland".

He defended the NBSCCCI, saying it had "done extraordinary work and has been highly recognised for that".

He also stood by its impartiality, stating that it was "independent".

"I don't attend any of its meetings – it makes its own decisions," he said.

Dr Martin said he would "have no difficulty" if the State wants to carry out the NBSCCCI functions instead.


But he indicated that he believed that the church watchdog's methodology would bear scrutiny.

"This is to the credit of Mr Ian Elliott, it is to the credit of the National Board and it is to the credit of every individual bishop who has collaborated in the reviews," he said.

Asked about the row between Ian Elliott, the National Board and Bishop Treanor, Dr Martin said he had no knowledge of the details, but he said it was in the interests of all that clarity be brought.

Mr Elliott, who retired from the National Board of Safeguarding Children last June, is now considering legal action against Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr Noel Treanor.

Mr Elliott says the December 2013 NBSCCCI review of the diocese omitted a serious clerical child abuse case, despite his raising the matter with both Dr Treanor and the NBSCCCI before his retirement.

Irish Independent

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