Thursday 23 November 2017

Authorities: Official was asked to shred or 'soften' findings

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

AN official in the Office of the Minister for Children asked that a damning report on the handling of child abuse allegations in the diocese of Cloyne be withdrawn and shredded.

The request was made of Ian Elliott, the head of the Catholic Church's Board for Safeguarding Children, in July 2008 after his investigation uncovered the findings.

The Murphy Commission was told by Mr Elliott that the civil servant asked him to re-direct the report to the HSE and produce "something softer".

Mr Elliott recalled that he "refused and expressed his anger at the suggestion", according to the Cloyne Report published yesterday.

The official told the commission in evidence that Mr Elliott's interpretation was a "misunderstanding" and he denied asking him to shred it or have it softened.

The official said he believed the report was a matter for the HSE and not the Office of the Minister for Children. The official had concerns about the legal exposure of the then Minister for Children Barry Andrews, but he admitted he did not get legal advice on the matter. Mr Elliott, who refused to withdraw or rewrite the report, gave it to Mr Andrews' department, which then forwarded it on to the HSE.

The former director general of the office, Sylda Langford, said her office had a high opinion of Mr Elliott.

A HSE report on the failure of the Cloyne diocese to make child abuse known to the health authority in March 2008 did not appear to be of as high a standard as that produced by Mr Elliott.

The commission said the diocese was aware of the requirement to report allegations of child sexual abuse to health authorities, but did not do so between 1996 and 2008.

"The HSE became aware of a specific case in summer 2007 when it was contacted by a complainant to find out whether or not the case was reported to them."

In September 2007, the survivors group One in Four wrote to the Department of Health and pointed out the complaint was not reported to the HSE.

This was passed on to child care staff in Cork. And after corresponding with the diocese, the HSE staff said this may "well have been an oversight".

Comment: Pages 28&29

Irish Independent

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