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Saturday 17 March 2018

No clergy to be prosecuted after three-year probe

Investigation into abuse hampered by lack of laws at the time over reporting sexual crimes

Co-operated: Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin allowed the investigation team access to diocese files
Co-operated: Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin allowed the investigation team access to diocese files
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

NOT a single Catholic bishop or priest will be prosecuted for covering up the scandal of clerical sex abuse over several decades at the end of a three-year Garda investigation.

The enormous and time-consuming investigation involved a team of 12 to 14 detectives who interviewed more than 800 witnesses over three years.

The probe was launched in 2009 after the Murphy report on clerical abuse in the Dublin archdiocese revealed how the Catholic priests and bishops colluded with state authorities and gardai to shield paedophile priests.

Detectives were unable to build a case against surviving clergy for secretly moving paedophiles from parish to parish during the Eighties and Nineties because covering up for child abusers was not a specific offence at the time.

New laws, such as reckless endangerment of children and defilement of a child, were passed only six years ago, while withholding information on child abuse became a criminal offence last year.

Senior Garda sources confirmed to the Sunday Independent this weekend that the case was now closed, without a single member of the clergy facing prosecution.

"Unless new evidence emerges or someone comes forward, the investigation is done and dusted," a senior source said.

The then Garda Commissioner, Fachtna Murphy, launched the inquiry in 2009, saying its focus was to establish whether the failings of the Church and state authorities "amounted to criminal behaviour".

He appointed an assistant commissioner, John O'Mahony, to report back on possible crimes, with a view to forwarding them to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Sources said Dublin Archdiocese, under Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, co-operated fully and opened up the files to the investigation team.

More than 800 people were interviewed, including serving and retired priests, bishops and cardinals, along with victims of abuse and members of An Garda Siochana.

Sources said the investigation was complicated by the absence of laws relating to the reporting of sexual crimes and child abuse in the period under investigation. Some key clerical witnesses were elderly and infirm, and there were also instances in which some of the victims were reluctant to revisit the abuse they had suffered as children.

The investigation was later broadened out to include allegations of collusion and cover-up in the Cloyne diocese in Cork.

Files were sent to the DPP in "a number of cases" in relation to both Dublin and Cloyne. But the DPP decided not to prosecute in any of the cases and the investigation has been shut down.

The Murphy report cited numerous instances in which senior clerics failed to act on information on clerical abusers. It found that the Catholic hierarchy hid decades of child abuse to protect the Church's reputation, in some cases with the collusion of gardai.

Cardinal Desmond Connell was among four archbishops criticised for not handing over information to authorities on abusers. The report found that he was "slow to recognise" the seriousness of clerical sex abuse, and allowed priests to remain in ministry even though he was aware of complaints against them.

The final chapter of the Murphy report, which was finally published last weekend after being held up by legal proceedings, revealed an "inappropriate relationship" between gardai and the Catholic Church.

While the criminal investigation into the cover-up of child abuse is closed, the Garda watchdog has launched its own inquiry into how members of the force handled child abuse investigations.

The Garda Ombudsman launched the investigation "in the public interest" last year, on foot of the commission of inquiry into child abuse in the Cloyne diocese.

The report found that in one case, files and statements relating to a complaint of abuse against a priest were never found. It appeared that a second complaint against the priest was not investigated.

Irish Independent

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