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Thursday 14 December 2017

Respected author of hard-hitting reports who clashed with clerics

Ian Elliott: Stepped down as Church’s child protection watchdog in 2013. Photo: Emaker Press 8
Ian Elliott: Stepped down as Church’s child protection watchdog in 2013. Photo: Emaker Press 8

Shane Phelan Public Affairs Editor

Northern Presbyterian Ian Elliott was the Catholic Church's child protection watchdog for six years when he stepped down from the role in 2013.

Prior to taking the job, he had been the lead adviser on child protection at the North's Social Services Inspectorate, and also worked as divisional director of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

During his time with the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, Mr Elliott (66) wrote several hard-hitting reports and came into conflict with a number of senior clerics.

The board was set up in 2007 by a number of Catholic organisations to offer advice on best practice in safeguarding children, assist in the development of procedures, and to monitor ongoing safeguarding practices.

A major part of its work was going into dioceses and religious organisations to conduct audits.

So far, it has completed reviews of 22 of the 26 dioceses and seven of the major religious orders.

Mr Elliott was highly respected for his work and had no hesitation in highlighting those who would not cooperate with him.

It was his report on the Diocese of Cloyne which precipitated the resignation of its bishop, Dr John Magee, who had served as private secretary to three popes.

Mr Elliott disclosed how the board encountered resistance in accessing child protection files in the diocese.

This prompted a commission of investigation report into Cloyne which found child protection practices were inadequate and dangerous.

More recently, Mr Elliott highlighted serious failures by two religious orders, the Christian Brothers and the Kiltegan Fathers, who failed to deal with cases of abuse over four decades.

Mr Elliott also clashed with the Bishop of Down and Connor, Noel Treanor, who accused him of spinning against the church in media briefings.

Retired Supreme Court Judge Catherine McGuinness was asked by church authorities to conduct an investigation into the bishop's allegations in 2012.

The judge concluded there was no basis for the complaint and Bishop Treanor accepted her findings.

Since his retirement last June, Mr Elliott has been critical of cuts to the funding of the national board, and has accused religious bodies of using "covert means" to limit its investigations

The safeguarding board is funded by the Irish Bishops Conference, the Conference of Religious in Ireland and the Irish Missionary Union.

Irish Independent

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