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Paedophile worked at youth group

Ireland's leading youth group has confirmed that paedophile Michael Ferry worked as a volunteer at one of its clubs.

Foroige said the 55-year-old serial child rapist worked with children for the organisation in Co Donegal between 1984 and 1987.

Both the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the gardai have been contacted to make them aware of the revelations, a Foroige spokeswoman said.

"Foroige wishes to assure the public that child protection is a priority for our organisation," she said.

"The most stringent child protection policies and procedures are currently in place.

"These include an application process, Garda vetting, a system of reference checks and Foroige's own organisational child protection guidelines and training, which are derived from and consistent with Children First."

The Foroige spokeswoman said Ferry has had no involvement with the organisation "to the best of our knowledge" for the past 24 years.

It is believed the Foroige youth club in Derrybeg collapsed in the late 1980s and subsequent attempts to set it up again foundered.

The organisation says it has no records of when or why the club was shut down.

Nor is there any record of why Ferry, one of a number of volunteer leaders at the Gweedore Foroige Club, left the organisation. His duties at the time were to supervise young people's projects in conjunction with other volunteer leaders.

A Foroige spokeswoman said Ferry did not volunteer with the organisation anywhere else in Co Donegal or elsewhere "to the best of our knowledge".

She also confirmed that Ferry was never vetted for the position. "Garda vetting was not available to voluntary organisations 24 years ago," she said.

The organisation said it was never made aware of any issues or concerns arising from his voluntary involvement in the organisation and never received a complaint about him.

Foroige runs clubs all over the country which it says provide a safe place for young people to hang out, meet new friends, have a voice and which it says is run by the young people themselves.

The organisation is funded by a number of State agencies including the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

The Department of Education also confirmed tonight that it is trawling through its records to see if Ferry worked for a time as a substitute teacher at Pobalscoil Gaoth Dobhair in Co Donegal during the 1980s.

A computerised payroll system for secondary substitute teachers was only brought in in 2006 and before that they were paid directly by school management and the money subsequently reclaimed from the Department.

"The Department is checking its manual recoupment records in relation to the period in question and will be making any information resulting from this available to the Gardai and HSE to assist them in any ongoing inquiries," a spokeswoman said.

The HSE said it was also carrying out a review to see if health authorities acted appropriately to the dangers posed by Ferry.

It issued a statement encouraging individuals and families who have experienced sexual abuse to seek out help from their GP or counselling services.

An HSE spokeswoman said it will put on additional counselling resources in Co Donegal if needed.

"The HSE is reviewing its involvement in relation to the case of Michael Ferry to establish that all appropriate actions were taken by both the former North Western Health Board and the HSE," she added.

© Press Association