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Saturday 19 October 2019

Church watchdog denies omissions in abuse report

Ian Elliott, former head of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church
Ian Elliott, former head of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church

Shane Phelan Public Affairs Editor

THE Catholic Church's child safety watchdog has rejected claims by its former boss that a report into the handling of abuse omitted relevant information.

In a statement, the National Board for the Safeguarding of Children said it categorically denied any suggestion that its report last year on the Diocese of Down and Connor "omitted relevant matters from the audit process".

Earlier this month the board's former chief executive, Ian Elliott, told the Irish Independent that serious concerns he had about the handling of an abuse case were omitted from the report.

He alleged that the diocese blocked the release of information it held about its 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.

Mr Elliott conducted audit "field work" in the diocese, which covers Antrim, Down and parts of Derry, in May of last year. He retired the following month.

When the report was subsequently published in December, it did not contain issues of concern he had observed during the field work, Mr Elliott said.

However, the National Board yesterday disputed the claim that relevant information had been omitted.

"Before his retirement on June 30, 2013, Mr Elliott participated in field work as part of the audit process and prepared a first draft report which reflected very positively on the Diocese of Down and Connor," it said in a statement.

"While preserving its tone, there was a need to augment it with work which had to be undertaken after Mr Elliott's retirement and to stress-test the contents in order to complete the review in line with the methodology established by the board."

The National Board said there were two comments in Mr Elliott's report which were not detailed in the final report.

One of these related to a particular case which the reviewers believed they could not include because, in their view, Mr Elliott had not provided supporting data.

But last night Mr Elliott said: "I am standing resolutely by my public statements."

He states he tried to investigate the Donaghy case last year, but was blocked by the diocese from doing so on the grounds that there was no basis for a review.

Mr Elliott claims he later uncovered records that indicated to him an investigation of the handling of the case was necessary.

The diocese has said it was "transparent" in its dealings with the board.

Irish Independent

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