10 December 2013

"No room for complacency" in church abuse safeguards - Fitzgerald

Frances Fitzgerald, TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, today responded to the publication of a further tranche of reviews conducted by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCC) into safeguarding practices at both diocesan and Religious Congregation level.

The latest reviews published by the Board are in respect of six Dioceses and one religious congregation. Also included in this overview report are the findings of those reviews and those relating to St Patrick’s Missionary Society which was reviewed earlier in the year as part of the 3rd tranche.

The publication of the six diocesan review reports brings to twenty two the number of such reports now published. In addition reviews have now been published in respect of five Religious Congregations.  The publication of these review reports brings the Board closer to completing a national picture of how Catholic dioceses and Religious Congregations are currently engaging with the issue of child protection, and the regimes in place in order to ensure that proper safeguarding arrangements are being applied and, more importantly, complied with.

Responding to the publication of the reviews, Minister Fitzgerald stated that "while the review highlights generally high levels of compliance by dioceses and orders currently with respect to best practice in child protection, they also remind us in stark terms of the shocking scale of historical abuse and failures and inaction to protect children. Behind these statistics are hundreds of cases of where vulnerable young people who were systematically abused by men in positions of trust. We know from the bravery of so many survivors of the trauma and long-lasting effect of these dreadful experiences.”

These reviews highlight 1,143 historic allegations since 1975 involving 456 accused priests and brothers.
Minister Fitzgerald noted that there were 21 convictions in the case of the seven dioceses/congregations which were the subject of review. The Minister stated the reports “highlight the appalling culture which existed in the past where reporting of child protection concerns was neither systematic nor adequate.”
The Minister added that “the 870 allegations against 325 members of the Christian Brothers is chilling given the central place the order played in Irish society over many decades.”

Minister Fitzgerald calls on the dioceses and orders to ensure that any findings of non-compliance with church standards are fully addressed as a matter of urgency.

Minister Fitzgerald acknowledged the ongoing work being done by the NBSCCC in ensuring that appropriate safeguarding and reporting measures are in place and operating properly across the Catholic Church. The Minister also acknowledged the strong and positive working relationship between the NBSCCC and the new Child and Family Agency including with respect to ensuring ongoing compliance with the Children First Guidance on child protection.

However, Minister Fitzgerald stressed that “there can be no room for complacency, and that it is imperative that the standards are fully implemented across the Church and that compliance continues to be validated by the Safeguarding Board.”

The Minister added: “Publication of these further reviews will again serve as a very painful reminder to the many victims of clerical abuse, including those that have not heretofore come forward.  I would encourage anybody affected by past abuse that has not previously come forward, to do so in confidence and with an assurance that they will be treated with the sensitivity deserved and provided with support.”