Gardai under investigation over handling of sex abuse complaints
Garda handling of two separate complaints of clerical sex abuse by a priest from the Catholic diocese of Cloyne is to be investigated by an independent watchdog body.
The Garda Ombudsman Commission has decided to carry out inquiries into the behaviour of gardai dealing with the complaints.
The move follows criticism of inadequate garda action, highlighted in the Cloyne Report, published last summer by a commission led by Judge Yvonne Murphy following a two-year state-ordered probe into allegations of cover-ups in Cloyne between 1996 and 2009.
The damning report resulted in a government decision to introduce legislation which could lead to priests being jailed for up to five years if they fail to report paedophiles to gardai, even if told of the abuse in the confessional.
A separate investigation by a team of gardai into the findings contained in the report is already under way.
It is focusing on the garda management of the inquiries into the abuse complaints and whether there was any wrongdoing by the officers involved.
It will result in a file being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions, who will determine if there should be criminal prosecutions.
Copies of the Cloyne Report were referred to the gardai and to the Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) by Justice Minister Alan Shatter to establish whether further action was warranted.
After a lengthy review of the report, the GSOC has decided to open an investigation "in the public interest" and it will concentrate on the garda handling of two complaints of abuse by a priest, known as Fr Corin.
One complainant, identified as "Nia", claimed that Fr Corin had moved to her parish when she was nine or 10 years old and the abuse continued until he left the parish when she was 16.
She outlined her complaints to an outside bishop and was subsequently interviewed by a monsignor, who reported the complaints to the gardai in March 1996 and sent a letter to the superintendent at Macroom garda station.
The superintendent, who was identified in the Cloyne Report as the district officer in charge of Macroom from February to September 1996, told the Murphy Commission he had no recollection of the case but contended that a file had been opened and an investigation commenced.
The commission's report noted: "However, there is no evidence that this is so.
"No files in relation to this case have been found by the gardai and it is clear that, at minimum, proper procedures in relation to the recording of notifications were not followed."
The Murphy Commission said it considered that most of the gardai involved in investigating the complaints had carried out their tasks well while treating the complainants with compassion and dignity.
But it was very concerned about the approach adopted by the gardai in three cases. In the case involving Nia, it said it had not been able to establish why an investigation had not taken place, but had no doubt there was no investigation even though there was a complaint.
This will now be pursued by GSOC, which will also examine the handling of another complaint against Fr Corin by a girl, identified as Oifa, who told the health board in her area that the priest had interfered with her on more than one occasion.
The health board notified the gardai in a Limerick station and Oifa made a statement to a garda there.
The Murphy Commission said the Limerick station's correspondence register did not record the notification from the health board and there was no evidence that the gardai initiated an investigation.
GSOC said last night that it could hold an investigation in the public interest without receiving a complaint if there were indications that a garda might have committed an offence or behaved in a manner that would justify disciplinary proceedings.