of Investigation Report in the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne: Motion
Wednesday, 20 July 2011
Vol. 737 No. 11
[ Taoiseach Enda Kenny | Deputy
Micheál Martin | Deputy Dara
Calleary | Deputy Caoimhghín
Ó Caoláin | Deputy John
Halligan | Deputy Catherine Murphy
| Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan
| Deputy Mick Wallace | Deputy
Richard Boyd Barrett | Deputy Alan Shatter
| Deputy Charlie McConalogue
| Deputy Dan Neville | Deputy
Michelle Mulherin | Deputy Jonathan
O’Brien | Deputy Sandra McLellan
| Deputy Regina Doherty | Deputy
Derek Keating | Deputy Finian McGrath
| Deputy Clare Daly | Deputy
Stephen Donnelly | Deputy Michael
McCarthy | Deputy Eamonn Maloney
| Deputy Barry Cowen ]
The Taoiseach: I move:
That Dáil Éireann:
— notes the publication of the report by the Commission of
Investigation into the handling by Church and State authorities
of allegations and suspicions of child sexual abuse against clerics
of the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne;
— expresses its sympathy with the victims whose suffering
is set out in the report;
— expresses its thanks to the Commission of Investigation
for their work carried out with sensitivity;
— expresses its dismay at the disturbing findings of the
report and at the inadequate and inappropriate response, particularly
of the Church authorities in Cloyne, to complaints and allegations
of child sexual abuse;
— deplores the Vatican’s intervention which contributed
to the undermining of the child protection frameworks and guidelines
of the Irish State and the Irish bishops;
— welcomes the publication of the Children First National
Guidance 2011, the full and consistent implementation of which will
be given priority, and welcomes the approval by Government for the
preparation of legislation to require statutory compliance with
the Children First National Guidance;
— acknowledges that child protection requires a cross-societal
awareness and a purposeful co-operative response from all organisations
working with children;
— welcomes the publication of the provisions concerning the
Criminal Justice (Withholding Information on Crimes against Children
and Vulnerable Adults) Bill 2011 and welcomes the announcement made
that the heads of the National Vetting Bureau Bill 2011 will be
published by the end of July 2011 and furnished to the Joint Committee
on Justice, Defence and Equality for a consultative process; and
— affirms its determination that the State will take all
necessary measures to protect its children.
The revelations in the Cloyne report have brought the Government,
Irish Catholics and the Vatican to an unprecedented juncture. It
is fair to say that after the Ryan and Murphy reports, Ireland is,
perhaps, unshockable when it comes to the abuse of children. However,
the Cloyne report has proved to be of a different order because
for the first time in this country a report on child sexual abuse
exposes an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry in a
sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not
three decades ago. In doing so the report excavates the dysfunction,
disconnection and elitism that dominates the culture of the Vatican
to this day. The rape and torture of children were down-played or
managed to uphold the primacy of the institution, its power, standing
and reputation. Far from listening to evidence of humiliation and
betrayal with St. Benedict’s “ear of the heart”,
the Vatican’s reaction was to parse and analyse it with the
gimlet eye of a Canon lawyer. This calculated, withering position
is the polar opposite of the radicalism, humility and compassion
on which the Roman Church was founded. Such radicalism, humility
and compassion comprise the essence of its foundation and purpose.
This behaviour is a case of Roma locuta est: causa finita est, except
in this instance nothing could be further from the truth.
The Cloyne report’s revelations are heart-breaking. It describes
how many victims continued to live in the small towns and parishes
in which they were reared and abused. Their abuser was often still
in the area and still held in high regard by their families and
community. The abusers continued to officiate at family weddings
and funerals. In one case, the abuser even officiated at a victim’s
wedding. There is little that I or anyone else in the House can
say to comfort that victim or others, however much we wish to. However,
we can and do recognise the bravery and courage of all the victims
who told their stories to the commission. While it will take a long
time for Cloyne to recover from the horrors uncovered, it could
take the victims and their families a lifetime to pick up the pieces
of their shattered existence, if ever they do.
One day post-publication of the report the Tánaiste and
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade met the Papal Nuncio to Ireland,
Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza. The Tánaiste left the archbishop
clear on two things: the gravity of the actions and attitude of
the Holy See and Ireland’s complete rejection and abhorrence
of same. The Papal Nuncio undertook to present the Cloyne report
to the Vatican. The Government now awaits the considered response
of the Holy See.
The people, including the many faithful Catholics who, like me,
have been shocked and dismayed by the repeated failings of church
authorities to face up to what is required. They deserve and require
confirmation from the Vatican that it does accept, endorse and require
compliance by all church authorities here with the obligations to
report all cases of suspected abuse, whether current or historical,
to the State’s authorities in line with the Children First
national guidance which will have the force of law.
Clericalism has rendered some of Ireland’s brightest and
most privileged and powerful men either unwilling or unable to address
the horrors cited in the Ryan and Murphy reports. This Roman clericalism
must be devastating for good priests, some of them old, others struggling
to keep their humanity, even their sanity, as they work hard to
be the keepers of the church’s light and goodness within their
parishes, communities and the condition of the human heart. Thankfully
for them and us, this is not Rome. Nor is it industrial school or
Magdalene Ireland, where the swish of a soutane, smothered conscience
and humanity and the swing of a thurible ruled the Irish Catholic
world. This is the Republic of Ireland in 2011. It is a republic
of laws, rights and responsibilities and proper civic order where
the delinquency and arrogance of a particular version of a particular
kind of morality will no longer be tolerated or ignored.
As a practising Catholic, I do not say any of this easily. Growing
up, many of us in here learned that we were part of a pilgrim church.
Today, that church needs to be a penitent church, a church truly
and deeply penitent for the horrors it perpetrated, hid and denied
- in the name of God, but for the good of the institution.
Through our legislation, through our Government’s action
to put children first, those who have been abused can take some
small comfort in knowing that they belong to a nation - to a democracy
- where humanity, power, rights and responsibilities are enshrined
and enacted always for their good; where the law - their law, as
citizens of this country - will always supersede canon law that
has neither legitimacy nor place in the affairs of this country.
This report tells us a tale of a frankly brazen disregard for protecting
children. If we do not respond swiftly and appropriately as a State,
we will have to prepare ourselves for more reports like this. I
agree with Archbishop Martin that the church needs to publish any
other and all other reports like this as soon as possible. I note
the commission is very positive about the work of the National Board
for Safeguarding Children, established by the church to oversee
the operation by dioceses and religious orders. The commission notes
that all church authorities were required to sign a contract with
the national board agreeing to implement the relevant standards
and that those refusing to sign would be named in the board’s
annual report. Progress has been in no small measure due to the
commitment of Mr. Ian Elliott and others.
There is some small comfort to be drawn by the people of Cloyne
from the fact that the commission compliments the efforts made by
the diocese since 2008 in training, in vetting personnel and in
the risk management of priests against whom allegations have been
made. Nevertheless, the behaviour of Bishop Magee and Monsignor
O’Callaghan show how fragile even good standards and policies
are to the weakness and willful disregard of those who fail to give
the right priority to safeguarding our children.
If the Vatican needs to get its house in order, so too does this
State. The report of the commission is rightly critical of the entirely
unsatisfactory position which the last Government allowed to persist
over many years. The unseemly bickering between the Minister of
State with responsibility for children and the HSE over the statutory
powers to deal with extra-familial abuse, the failure to produce
legislation to enable the exchange of soft information, as promised
after the Ferns inquiry, and the long period of confusion and disjointed
responsibility for child protection within the HSE, as reported
by the commission, are simply not acceptable to me nor in a society
which values children and their safety.
For too long Ireland has neglected some of its children. Just last
week, we saw a case of the torture of children within the family
come before the courts. Just two days ago, we were repulsed by the
case of a Donegal registered sex offender and school caretaker,
which involved children and young adults reduced to human wreckage.
This raises questions and issues of serious import for State agencies.
We are set to embark on a course of action to ensure the State
is doing all it can to safeguard our children. The Minister, Deputy
Shatter, is bringing forward two Bills, first, to make it an offence
to withhold information relating to crimes against children and
vulnerable adults, and, second, at long last, to allow for the exchange
of soft information on abusers.
As Taoiseach, I want to do all I can to protect the sacred space
of childhood and to restore its innocence, especially for our young
teenagers, because, regardless of our current economic crisis, our
children are, and always will be, our most precious possession of
all. Safeguarding their integrity and innocence must be a national
priority. This is why I undertook to create a Cabinet ministry for
Children and Youth Affairs. The legislation, Children First, proposes
to give our children maximum protection and security without intruding
on the hectic, magical business of being a child.
The then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said: “Standards of conduct
appropriate to civil society or the workings of a democracy cannot
be purely and simply applied to the Church”. As the Holy See
prepares its considered response to the Cloyne Report, I want to
make it clear, as Taoiseach, that when it comes to the protection
of the children of this State, the standards of conduct which the
Church deems appropriate to itself cannot and will not be applied
to the workings of democracy and civil society in this republic
- not purely, or simply or otherwise, because children have to be
and will be put first.
Deputy Micheál Martin: I wish to share
time with Deputy Calleary.
An Ceann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.
Deputy Micheál Martin:
It is appropriate that the motion before the House is signed by
party and group leaders because the only acceptable reaction to
this report is unity between us all to condemn the actions it exposes,
support the victims and affirm our joint commitment to action. The
report is very moving for me because I intimately know many of the
communities which have been affected by this abuse. They are strong
communities with a great spirit. They have vibrant sports clubs
and family facilities. The Church has always played a significant
role. It has been respected and valued by both people of faith and
the wider community.
The undeniable facts in this report show a different picture of
the Catholic Church in Cloyne. Abusers were allowed to use their
status as clergy to carry out the most appalling crimes and the
church’s leadership in the diocese and in Rome showed a callous
disregard for safety and the rights of the most vulnerable members
of its flock. This was done not simply to avoid scandal. It went
much further and involved a wilful refusal to respect basic moral
and legal responsibilities.
The abuse of children should never take place, but where it does,
simple humanity requires swift and resolute intervention. We do
not need regulations to understand this fundamental morality. However,
a significant framework of regulation and legal sanctions has been
in place for a long time. No person within any organisation, be
it public or private, has any excuse for not knowing exactly what
to do when there is even a general suspicion of child abuse. The
intervention of church authorities in undermining child protection
rules in recent years is nothing short of an outrage and a betrayal
of those who look to them for moral leadership.
When the evidence of their failures were exposed, the reaction
of key Church authorities has given little assurance that they understand
the scale and depth of the outrage felt by ordinary people. This
is not something that can be dismissed as a plot by a secular elite
against a church. In fact, most of the strongest views I have heard
come from people who have great faith in the spiritual teachings
of the church.
In my meeting last year with the Papal Nuncio, I made it clear
that the Irish State expected the Vatican’s full co-operation
in the investigation into abuse in the Cloyne diocese and in all
other investigations. Its defensiveness and focus on the institutional
interests of the church rather than those of the children abused
by its clergy and shielded by its leaders will continue to cause
We should acknowledge the stand of some church leaders, most especially
Archbishop Martin. The church will only retain a place of importance
in our society if his colleagues follow him in his impressive commitment
to acknowledging and addressing the failure of the church over too
The Ryan report exposed in great detail the systematic brutalisation
and exploitation of children through many decades.
It showed what is probably the darkest chapter in our history as
an independent State. Thousands of children who had the right to
expect their State to protect and nurture them were abused in the
most appalling ways within mostly church controlled institutions.
The report has highlighted how the problem of abuse and institutional
cover-up is not only a concern of the past but is also not something
anyone can be complacent about.
The Ryan report emerged because of a brave group of survivors who
many years into their adult lives were determined to get justice
and support healing. I met many of them before and after I proposed
the establishment of that commission of inquiry. I did not want
to add a partisan note to the debate but I was struck by what the
Taoiseach said about the previous Minister and Government. The survivors
of the Goldenbridge institutions had been refused access to the
then rainbow Government and officials for several years and it was
only the television documentary that gave them a profile in the
public arena. They had been denied a response from the State for
many years before we proposed the establishment of that commission.
I admire very much their courage, integrity and continued commitment
to many survivors.
I also initiated the first inquiry into abuse in a church diocese
in Ferns. Mr. George Birmingham did an outstanding job on that.
We did not expect there would be further shocking revelations from
the dioceses of Dublin and Cloyne. The significance of the Cloyne
report is that many of the victims of abuse are much younger than
those covered by the Ryan report and, in many cases, they are clearly
only beginning to come to terms with the abuse they suffered. It
is right that we thank the commission of investigation for carrying
out a difficult assignment with sensitivity and thoroughness. I
welcome the general measures proposed for dealing with what has
been outlined in the report. Our consideration of the legislation
should be thorough and fast. Equally, where there is a need for
further forensic investigations, particularly in regard to other
dioceses, they should be carried out.
Deputy Dara Calleary:
I endorse the motion and the contributions of the Taoiseach and
Deputy Martin. The motion and the report send a strong message of
support to those who suffered abuse. However, on this occasion there
is an even stronger message of condemnation of those who perpetrated
the abuse and the strongest message should be directed at those
who covered it up in Cloyne, the Vatican and elsewhere. They, in
full knowledge of the horrendous impact of abuse arising from previous
commissions of inquiries, cases and disclosures and in full knowledge
of the fact that it was either happening within their own organisation
or in their area, proceeded with contempt for survivors and victims,
contempt for their own church and the members and colleagues who
serve it and contempt, in the case of the Vatican, for the laws
of an independent nation state with, ultimately, a shared contempt
for the truth. That contempt had its foundations in one aim - the
protection of friends of and colleagues, a protection given and
offered to the cost of victims and survivors, the church and, ultimately,
We have been here previously. All-party motions were tabled on
the Ryan, Ferns and Murphy reports and we expressed similar sentiments
then, yet we are back in the House again. The most shocking aspect
of the Cloyne report is that we are here at all. This abuse did
not happen 50 or 60 years ago in a different era. The report covers
how abuse allegations were handled between 1996 and 2009. It explicitly
The greatest failure by the Diocese of Cloyne was its failure
to report all complaints to the Gardaí. Between 1996 and
2005, there were 15 complaints which very clearly should have
been reported by the diocese to the Gardaí...Of these 15,
nine were not reported.
This was only 15 years ago and the report covers the period after
that covered by the Ferns report. The Ferns report, published in
2005, found that bishops at that time placed the interests of individual
priests ahead of those of the community in which they served, yet
this practice continued unabated in Cloyne. The Murphy report has
also shown this was also the practice in the Dublin archdiocese
for a 30-year period. This gives us three dioceses with three similar
practices of cover up.
As the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs stated last week,
we cannot say with certainty that the same is not true in every
other diocese. That certainty is needed. Victims and survivors need
that certainty to get the peace they deserve. The country needs
certainty to move on and the vast majority of priests and members
of the Catholic Church who were not part of this need that certainty.
It must be ensured that the HSE audit of the 24 dioceses is published
in September. The church must get its act together and finalise
its audit. Surely at this stage, given the time expended on this,
it is not too much to ask that the audit be published by the end
of this year. Publication of the audits will allow us for the first
time to establish the scale of abuse throughout the county and we
will only then be able to say with certainty that we can begin the
process of moving on.
However, there is one caveat. The manner in which the Vatican interfered
in the Cloyne diocese is appalling and the report is direct about
this. According to the authors, the response of the Vatican to the
framework document “can only be described as unsupportive
especially in relation to reporting to the civil authorities. The
effect was to strengthen the position of those who dissented from
the official stated Irish Church policy”. Those who dissented
were not interested in the protection of the children. The response
from the Vatican was in the interest of the protection of friends
and colleagues at the expense of children.
It is exactly one week since the publication of the report by the
Government and the Vatican has yet to issue a formal response. Its
only response was through a spokesman this morning who, in a personal
capacity, said there was noting in the advice given by the nuncio
in 1997 to encourage bishops to break Irish laws. He said the Vatican’s
advice on child protection policies could not be interpreted as
an invitation to cover up abuse. Does the Vatican take us, the people
of Ireland, for fools? The Congregation for the Clergy of the Vatican
told Irish bishops that the framework document was “not an
official document of the Episcopal Conference but merely a study
document. It further stated it contained “procedures and dispositions
which appear contrary to canonical discipline and which, if applied,
could invalidate the acts of some Bishops who were attempting to
put a stop to this problem. If such procedures were to be followed
by the Bishops and there were cases of eventual hierarchical recourse
lodged at the Holy See, the results could be highly embarrassing
and detrimental to those same Diocesan authorities”.
This is the most damning line. There is no indication of any concern
on the part of Vatican for the children who were abused. While the
Vatican authorities might not have encouraged bishops to break the
laws, they encouraged them to put the reputation of the church before
the protection of children. They were more worried about embarrassment
than the damage of abuse. In how many other dioceses did the Vatican
interfere in the manner it did in Cloyne? We need to ascertain this
to truly believe the forthcoming audits. Will the Minister for Children
and Youth Affairs consider compelling the HSE to include this in
their audit because we will be unable to believe other audits unless
this is included?
The legislative response will come before the health and justice
committees. I propose that consideration be given to establishing
a joint sub-committee of both committees so that spokespersons in
both portfolios can be involved. I welcome the indication that the
criminal justice (withholding information on crimes against children
and vulnerable adults) Bill will be introduced in September. Given
the discussion that has developed around this issue in recent days,
August might be used for consultation on it so people with genuine
concerns will have an opportunity to put forward their views to
the justice committee in a dispassionate manner. Heads of the legislation
may be ready by the end of the month. If so, consultation would
be possible in August.
Developments in the vetting bureau are also welcome. I acknowledge
the efforts made by the Minister for Justice and Equality in addressing
the backlog in the Garda vetting system. However, unless the resources
issues at the bureau are addressed, our shared ambition to introduce
vetting legislation will amount to nothing.
We cannot again gather on another report to express our disgust
and anger at what has happened. Archbishop Martin has challenged
the Catholic Church by stating it can never rest until the last
abuse victim has found peace. We, too, must put legislative building
blocks in place and not rest until we have done our bit to give
the victims peace.
Ó Caoláin: While Sinn Féin supports
the motion, we would have preferred to see the stronger language
contained in a previous draft employed. The motion expresses how
the House deplores the Vatican’s intervention which contributed
to the undermining of the child protection frameworks and guidelines
of the State and Irish bishops. Previously, the motion expressed
condemnation. We in Sinn Féin still express condemnation
of this scandalous intervention.
The events in Cloyne documented in the report may span a considerable
period, but they did not take place 100 years ago. There was still
abuse in Cloyne while preparations for the commencement of the deliberations
of the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children
were under way. It continued up to a couple of years ago.
This is a 400-page document that shows that 17 years after the
Brendan Smyth debacle brought down the then Fianna Fáil-Labour
Party Government in 1994, the official Catholic Church has learned
nothing. While the State has neglected its duties by failing to
put mandatory reporting requirements in place earlier, in Cloyne
Bishop John Magee held Canon Law superior to the civil law of the
land. That disposition directly led to the abuse of more children
through not adhering to correct reporting procedures and, thereby,
placed more children at risk.
How many inquiries do we have to go through before real action
is taken on this dreadful neglect? We have seen the Murphy, Ferns
and Cloyne reports. The Catholic Church still controls many of our
schools. As stated, this report investigates incidents which only
took place a short number of years ago. I shudder to think of the
real facts, the full story. Will more reports and inquiries on the
lack of adherence to reporting protocols have to be commissioned?
The Papal Nuncio refused to answer queries from a commission of
inquiry and claimed diplomatic immunity. The same Papal Nuncio still
has the role of issuing Vatican instructions to the bishops in this
country. I expect that if a school system operated and directly
controlled by a third party state in Ireland consistently failed
to report allegations of child sexual abuse against its teachers
and ancillary employees to the Garda, that state’s ambassador
would be required to answer questions. If he or she failed to do
so, he or she would be asked to leave. The church is not above the
law and it is high time it stopped thinking it was. Fr. Federico
Lombardi may claim his recent remarks were made in a personal capacity,
but this is the disingenuous double-speak that must come to an end.
Bishop John Magee had no interest in protecting the children of
Cloyne and fobbed off his responsibility to Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan
who equally had no interest in reporting the abuse of children to
the authorities. Bishop John Magee actively and knowingly lied to
the Government, the health service and the Garda. He concealed information
on the crimes committed by the priests in his diocese. He actively
engaged in the reckless and, at times, wilful endangerment of children.
There are prosecutions to be faced by those who perpetrated crimes
against children, either through directly abusing them or being
complicit in the cover-up of their abuse. Nothing less, I fear,
will bring to an end this lurid regime.
Two thirds of complaints made between 1996 and 2008 were not reported
to the Garda and no complaint was passed to the Health Service Executive
during this period. While Members of this House, including the current
Ministers for Children and Youth Affairs and Justice and Equality,
were sitting in a committee room deliberating on the rights of children,
Bishop John Magee was still not reporting allegations of abuse.
The cardinals may have apologised for this report, but that is
not good enough. The official church has disgraced itself in the
handling of this most serious of issues. It is absolutely disgusting
and goes right to the top. The bishops, with the Vatican, played
a major role in aggravating the level of abuse of children in Ireland.
The Cloyne report, measured in its tone, has found the Vatican’s
reaction to the 1996 framework document was “entirely unhelpful”
to any bishop who wanted to implement it, while giving any bishop
the individual freedom to ignore it. We now need cast-iron guarantees
from the church authorities that they will adhere to the civil law
when it comes to the mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse when
it is introduced with immediate effect. They have a moral obligation
to do so. However, moral obligations on members of the clergy in
Cloyne have not worked well in the past. Accordingly, we also need
cast-iron guarantees from the State that if any more flagrant breaches
of the law which we have seen on many occasions in the past must
be held to account.
For the Vatican to state the framework document of 1997 was merely
a study document rather than an official document was nothing short
of an insult to the survivors and victims of abuse. It stated it
had “serious reservations of a moral and canonical nature”
about the document. It is now up to it to state exactly what it
meant by having moral reservations about reporting allegations of
abuse or the actual knowledge that some Cloyne clerics were child
The Vatican, through the Papal Nuncio, refused to explain to the
commission of inquiry in 2005 why the updated guidelines were not
recognised officially by the church. Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan
actively obstructed the implementation of these guidelines in Cloyne.
It is this complete and unreserved disregard that some senior voices
in the church have for child protection in this case that is hard
to stomach. There have now been three statutory inquiries into abuse
in church dioceses in Ireland in which child protection procedures
were found wanting. Will there be more?
Only in 2009 Cardinal Seán Brady said Bishop John Magee
was “dependable and reliable” and that he did not need
to resign. This was a man who had been found by the church’s
own national board for safeguarding children to be presiding over
practices that were both inadequate and actually dangerous. It is
Many have said we can learn from all of these reports. It is hard
to see how so many reports highlighting similar failures can all
have different lessons from which we can learn. In looking at the
lessons of the Cloyne report, will the Minister agree we can teach
others? Last December the Executive in the Six Counties announced
the setting up of an inquiry into historical institutional abuse
in the North. A cross-departmental working group set up to examine
how an inquiry would proceed reported to the Executive almost a
fortnight ago. A decision will be made on how to investigate crimes
committed in institutions, both those run by the Catholic Church
and State-run institutions, in the autumn. The Minister will also
be aware that several dioceses, including Raphoe, Derry, Clogher
and Armagh, stretch across the Border. In looking at possible future
inquiries in other dioceses, it may be useful to co-ordinate with
the initiative under way in the Six Counties. Members of the Northern
Executive may also benefit from the experience of Members, victims
groups and wider civil society as to how the inquiries into abuse
in the Twenty-six Counties have been handled. Several meetings with
individuals have taken place. We may benefit from having a more
structured or formal approach.
If the Vatican has demonstrated contempt and disregard for the
concerns of the State and the abuse investigations, it is only in
keeping with the arrogance with which it approaches the mechanisms
for the protection of international human rights. The Vatican was
due to submit its second report under the UN Convention on the Rights
of the Child in 1997. Fourteen years on, it still has not done so.
It was supposed to submit its first report under the UN Convention
against Torture in 2003. Eight years on, it still has not done so.
In countries and continents across the world the Catholic Church,
acting as a religious organisation when it suits its interests and
as a state with all the protections that entails when it suits,
has covered up the abuse and torture of hundreds of thousands of
innocent children and young people. While many of these cases may
have occurred in the past, the cover-ups are taking place today.
The determination to avoid accountability is therefore today’s
As a candidate country for the United Nations Human Rights Council
and one struggling to deal with the legacies of generations of abuse,
Ireland should be able to show leadership on the international stage
by calling on the Vatican to stop acting like a rogue state and
live up to the commitments it has made by signing and ratifying
binding international human rights treaties. As a Catholic, it is
my strong belief that my church should not be a reluctant convert
to the protection of human rights and children. Surely it should
be in the global vanguard in respect of these issues. That it is
not saddens and offends. This must change.
The Vatican has behaved disgracefully. Its ambiguous nature, claiming
to be a state and expecting to be treated thus internationally but
without the burden of its agents having to adhere to national laws
in other states, has meant it has received preferential treatment
under a succession of Irish Governments. The persistent attitude
of acting solely in the interests of self-protection is fundamentally
anti-Christian. It is sad to note there is a real likelihood that
those who for so long have been ordained with this doctrine of complicity
and silence will not easily abandon such habits. That said, it is
important to reflect that there are many good priests in all dioceses
of the Catholic Church.
When Israel compromised Irish passports it was taken to task. Hundreds
of children and young people have been raped and abused by members
of an institution controlled by the Vatican. Their actions led to
the amplification of the devastating emotional and psychological
consequences of abuse. Are we to truly believe this is a matter
of just a few bad eggs? It is striking that the Cloyne report found
there were concerns raised about almost 8% of the 163 priests serving
in the diocese in 1996. It is ten years since the State’s
official apology for its role in abuse yet the response by the relevant
authorities in the report was demonstrably wholly inadequate. The
church failed to uphold child protection procedures and repeatedly
failed to report complaints to the Garda. Meanwhile, the Garda failed
to fully investigate complaints. The State must apologise again
to the victims of abuse for its failings.
The report details one case where, despite Garda assurances, the
commission found no evidence of police investigations into allegations
by two women against a single priest. The commission stated it was
concerned and does not accept there was a proper investigation into
the complaints against the priest named as Father Corin. I welcome
the joint statement issued by the Ministers for Justice and Equality
and Children and Youth Affairs on the publication of the report
wherein they express “profound sorrow” regarding the
failures of the State. While this motion may be about Cloyne, the
State still has questions to answer regarding its procedures. There
is an overwhelming sense of déjà vu with all of this.
Only this week, as Deputies are aware, we heard of a case in County
Donegal where the owners of a school premises continued to employ
a man convicted of sexually assaulting a young male despite the
Garda expressing concern about the matter. I am informed that the
owner of the school was in court when the individual in question
was convicted on a litany of sample rape and abuse charges, including
the making of child pornography. The head of the school stated the
keys of the building were taken from him when the school authorities
learned of his conviction. Despite this, the individual in question
continued to do odd jobs around the school premises. Michael Ferry
should never have been allowed to set foot inside the walls of a
school or any premises that catered to the needs of children and
young adults ever again. How many other similar cases are there
across this country? Either way, this case shows a wretched failure
of procedure within the school in question and demonstrates the
need for the Government to bring forward the publication of the
national vetting bureau Bill and establish the long awaited child
welfare and protection agency. I ask the Government to resource
these bodies accordingly and ensure they are effective and capable
of carrying out their responsibilities. Procedures, as we have seen
ad nauseam, are of no use unless implemented. I wish the Ministers
for Justice and Equality and Children and Youth Affairs well in
ensuring these measures are put in place at the earliest opportunity.
Deputy John Halligan:
I will share time with Deputies Catherine Murphy, Maureen O’Sullivan,
Wallace and Boyd Barrett.
I was horrified and sickened to read the findings of the Cloyne
report. That abuse was not reported in the Diocese of Cloyne is
utterly reprehensible. I call on the Government to break off diplomatic
relations with a state that, at its worst, shields paedophiles.
The Papal Nuncio should be expelled without delay due to the Vatican’s
massive deceit, the office of Papal Nuncio stripped of the title
of Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and our ambassador immediately withdrawn
from the Vatican. If any foreign government conspired with Irish
citizens to break the law here, the ambassador of the country in
question would be expelled. In this case, the Vatican, a sovereign
state, has refused to co-operate with the investigation into a criminal
conspiracy against children here. It instructed our citizens, who
are its priests and bishops, not to comply with Irish law and our
law was broken as a result. We would not tolerate such behaviour
by any other government or state.
Ireland has a legitimate claim that the Vatican State has breached
the legal principle of non-interference in the internal affairs
of sovereign states. The Holy See is party to various conventions,
including the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961,
which requires that:
Without prejudice to their privileges and immunities, it is the
duty of all persons enjoying such privileges and immunities to respect
the laws and regulations of the receiving State. They also have
a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that State.
The Holy See has conducted itself in a manner which belies any
special relationship between it and the Irish State and it must
now be held accountable.
Earlier this month, the Vatican went to great lengths to make its
new financial watchdog agency more independent and ensure all Vatican
financial transactions comply with European Union and international
anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing laws. What about
the criminals who inflicted such terrible suffering on children
here? Surely the violation of children and sheltering of abuse perpetrators
by the church should take precedence over suspicious financial transactions.
I urge the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs to use
every channel available to challenge the failure of the Vatican
State to report on its compliance as a party under the UN Convention
on the Rights of the Child since 1997 and the United Convention
against Torture since 2003. I draw the Tanaiste’s attention
to Articles 6 and 19 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
and the failure of the Holy See to ensure on its part, in conjunction
with Irish authorities, that all cases of sexual abuse are reported.
Furthermore, a clear statement as to the primacy of the convention
over canon law is required. I urge the Tánaiste and Minister
for Foreign Affairs to set a timeframe for a response from the Vatican
without delay and, once received, to place such response before
Deputy Catherine Murphy:
I was angry on reading the Cloyne report, mainly because it shows
that the culture has not changed for many senior figures in the
Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. It takes great courage to come
forward to give testimony and I applaud those who did so. For years
they were not believed, fobbed off and treated as though they were
in a confessional, which was wrong. The law of the State, it appears,
was subverted in favour of the Vatican. For too long in this country
we have outsourced sexual morality to the Roman Catholic Church.
It was an institution that was placed in a privileged position.
What is really horrific about the report is that even after all
the revelations there were people within the church who still did
not get it. The culture of protection is still alive in the church,
and many are still in denial.
I am not religious myself, however, I have watched the way Archbishop
Dermot Martin has been sidelined on the issue. He is one of the
few who have given me any confidence that the protection of children
is an absolute and there must be no ifs, buts or maybes. That is
the approach he has taken. His obvious alienation sends out the
most appalling message, namely, that those who question his approach
are more likely to take the approach of Monsignor O’Callaghan,
who said “Why should we take it on ourselves to report when
the complainant does not want it done”. I do not know how
he could have failed to understand that the requirement was there
to protect other children. He seems to have been completely trusted
by Bishop Magee, who on page 6 of the report said he was shocked
to discover in 2008 that the framework document was not being implemented.
After all that has been revealed in recent years, how could Bishop
Magee detach himself in that way?
On page 24 of the report we are told that Bishop Magee sent out
a circular in 2003 which heralded a series of meetings to be held
for all priests of the diocese to discuss the persistent crisis
in the church in regard to child sexual abuse. It is even more outrageous
that he did not supervise those he appointed to act on his behalf
when complaints were made.
I welcome the announcement that a statutory reporting requirement
will include a legal duty on State agencies to share relevant information
and co-operate in the best interests of the child. After all, it
is the responsibility of the State to ensure systems are in place
that are capable of handling complaints in a comprehensive manner.
I am not at all confident the system is sufficiently robust. Social
workers have complained that they are being blamed although there
are not enough of them in place to deal with matters that arise.
I am also appalled by the complaints being made about how people
are being treated in the lower courts. I hope the issue will be
addressed in the context of the Cloyne report.
Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan:
I am struck that this time last week we were discussing residential
institutions redress which was about the institutional abuse of
children. I described it as one of the darkest moments in our history.
This week we have the report into the Catholic diocese of Cloyne,
which accentuates further that darkness. What is it about the institutions
in this country - the church and the State - that they have this
ability to treat children and young people so cruelly either in
carrying out abuse or allowing it to continue? Other nations have
had their dark moments: the Jewish nation has had the Holocaust
and Cambodia has its “Killing Fields”. We have had the
systematic abuse of young people - abuse that is sexual, physical,
intellectual, emotional and spiritual - carried out by those in
authority in the church, the State and within families. While we
may not have had the death toll involved in those other disasters
there is a part of every young person that dies when they are abused.
It is noted in the report that there were reservations about some
priests while in training. They were obviously attracted to the
position because it gave them such scope when it came to abuse.
The concern for the welfare of the abuser above that of the abused,
as one victim put it, and damage limitation rather than a genuine
wish to help unreservedly was evident. When the church did have
clear guidelines in place on the duty to report to the Garda and
the health authorities that was not done. Inadequate records were
kept and the tendency was to keep the complaint within the church.
I acknowledge that at times the complaints were handled properly.
Again, we acknowledge the complainants who came forward to give
evidence. It is harrowing to read their statements. We also note
the reference to the Vatican in the report. There is widespread
sexual abuse of young people by clerics not just in this country
but in America and other countries with horrific effects. It is
equally heartbreaking for those in religious life who are as appalled
as we are by what was done by other people of the cloth.
The Cloyne report stated: “The standards which were adopted
by the church are high standards which if fully implemented would
afford proper protection to children.” The key word is “implement”.
It continues to say that the standards set by the State are less
precise and more difficult to implement so the State cannot afford
to take the high moral ground when cases are being investigated
concerning 200 young people who died in State care. The Donegal
report has emerged this week and last week there was the case of
a family who was abused.
I welcome that the proposed Bill also includes crimes against intellectually
disabled persons, the national vetting bureau and Children First
guidelines. We have all the measures now, but I agree with the Ombudsman
for Children that we must have the resources to match.
Deputy Mick Wallace:
I agree that the Government is correct to be critical of the Vatican
but I regret the change of wording from the original text. The word
“condemn” has been downgraded to “deplore”.
The dictionary definition of condemn is to declare to be reprehensible,
wrong or evil usually after weighing evidence and without reservation,
whereas deplore means to feel or express grief, to regret strongly,
to consider unfortunate or deserving of deprecation. I much prefer
the use of condemn in this situation. There is no excuse for the
behaviour of the Vatican. I am not in favour of expelling the papal
nuncio simply because it is more important to keep the lines of
communication open rather than out of respect, as the Vatican has
The Government must reassess the church-State relationship. The
church has played too big a part in the fabric of the State. The
sooner they are divided the better for both parties. The Government
should focus on the conduct of State officials and Departments in
this case such as the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth
Affairs which is strongly criticised in the report:
The Commission found it interesting to contrast the investigations
carried out by the HSE and that of Mr. Elliott on behalf of the
National Board for Safeguarding Children in relation to this case.
Both investigations had access to the same material. While the
HSE dealt only with the question of the failure to report to it,
Mr. Elliott took a much more robust approach to the inadequacies
as he perceived them of the diocesan approach. In the Commission’s
view, the National Board for Safeguarding Children and Mr. Elliott
are to be commended for that.
At the same time the Office of the Minister for Children was overly
and unnecessarily concerned about the delivery of the Elliott report
to it in July 2008. When Mr. Elliott sent the report to the office,
officials seemed to be more eager for it to go to the HSE. The Minister
seemed to be eager to absolve himself of any influence or responsibility
in the area. It would be interesting to get answers on why that
was the case. The commission makes it clear that the official who
asked Mr. Elliott to withdraw his report, redraft it in a nicer
way and softer manner and send it to the HSE was more concerned
with protecting the Minister from involvement than dealing with
the serious issue of concern, namely, the clear and certain knowledge
of the failure of the diocese of Cloyne to implement child protection
The terms of reference of the Commission of Investigation into
the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin required the Minister for Health
and Children to refer any Catholic diocese which was not compliant
with either the recommendations of the Ferns report or church guidelines
on child protection to the commission for investigation. It was
not the responsibility of the HSE or Ian Elliott, it was the responsibility
of the Minister, who along with his officials appeared to have wanted
to avoid it at any cost.
Deputy Richard Boyd
Barrett: The pain and suffering of people who have been
victims of abuse by church institutions is just too horrific to
describe. In that context the catalogue of abuse, and cover-up by
the church authorities of it, and failure to act is an absolute
outrage. While this motion constitutes a good start in being so
critical of the church authorities, Members must go considerably
further. First, as Deputy Halligan stated, the papal nuncio undoubtedly
should be expelled until the church issues a clear and unequivocal
statement that it will give precedence to civil law, that is, the
law of the State. on these matters over canon law or its own concerns
to defend its reputation or any other self-interest it may have.
In addition, the church and the State should be forced into some
form of truth and reconciliation forum in which the victims of abuse
by the church and other institutions within the State should be
given the opportunity to confront the authorities of the institutions
that abused them, to have their own voices heard and to articulate
their demands on what they need in respect of redress.
While the church authorities have, rightly, been criticised, the
Minister also must consider the issue of the failure of the Garda
to report complaints of abuse to the health boards, as well as the
fact that in some cases, gardaí were assessing whether priests
about whom complaints had been made were an ongoing risk to children.
The Garda has no qualification to assess whether alleged abusers
are an ongoing risk to children as that is a matter for the health
authorities. The role of the Garda is to use different criteria
to assess whether legal prosecutions can be taken. In other words,
when one talks of mandatory reporting, the key question is to what
authority is one reporting and for what purpose. Reporting should
not be to the Garda alone, as I heard the Minister mention on radio
today, although it certainly should be reported to. Reporting also
must be to the health authorities, which must consider the interests
of the child. Consideration must be given to whether a legal prosecution
can be taken and to the best interests of the child, as well as
to what measures must be put in place to secure those best interests.
As has been agreed and as the wording of the motion suggests, many
of these problems would not have occurred had the Children First
guidelines been in place, had they been implemented fully by all
agencies and bodies and had they been respected by church institutions
and everyone else. Therefore, I greatly welcome the Government’s
commitment to put in place and give legislative force to the Children
First guidelines. However, it is clear these guidelines cannot be
implemented fully and properly unless the resources are provided
to so do. This goes far beyond the commitment to an additional 250
social workers, as many other types of supports, resources and staffing
issues also must be addressed. This comes at a time at which the
public sector recruitment embargo is slaughtering staff numbers
in many of the areas which it would be necessary to resource fully
and this point must be considered. If children are to come first,
the resources must be put in place to ensure they do.
Minister for Justice and Equality
(Deputy Alan Shatter): Last Wednesday I published the Cloyne
report and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and I set
out the Government’s response. On that occasion I said it
was difficult to read the report and avoid despair. My feelings
have been strengthened by the reactions of victims and their families
in the week since the report was published. Sadly, some of the victims
are no longer with us, but their families have spoken. We owe a
debt of gratitude to the victims for their courage in telling the
commission of investigation about their experiences of abuse and
what happened afterwards when they came in contact with those in
authority who were in a position to take action which would have
made a difference to their plight and that of others. I share the
commission’s hope the report’s publication may to some
degree alleviate the hurt and anger they rightly and naturally feel.
We should also pay tribute to the work of all those individuals
and organisations that have supported them.
I acknowledge the contribution of Judge Yvonne Murphy and her colleagues
on the commission of investigation. They have delivered a report
of clarity and carried out their difficult task sensitively and
meticulously. The victims had to relive painful memories and the
commission members had to help them to relive these memories in
the least distressing way possible, while at the same maintaining
a professional approach. They succeeded admirably in doing this.
The report’s findings are unambiguous. It is severely critical
of the diocese of Cloyne. The response of the diocese to complaints
and allegations of child sexual abuse in the period from 1996 to
2008 was totally inadequate and inappropriate. Specifically, church
guidelines were not fully or consistently implemented in the diocese.
Primary responsibility for this lies with the bishop who the report
describes as ineffective and the vicar general charged with investigating
complaints against priests of child sexual abuse who did not approve
of the procedures set out in the church guidelines, in particular,
the requirement to report to the civil authorities. The diocese
failed to report all complaints to the Garda. Out of 15 complaints
in the period that should have been reported, nine were not. In
two of these the subject of the complaint was a minor at the time
the complaint was made. After reporting complaints against one priest
in 1996, the diocese did not report any complaints to the health
authorities again until 2008. Furthermore, it did not put a proper
support system in place, as mandated by church guidelines, nor did
it operate an advisory panel which was independent. The panel’s
documentation was inadequate and the diocese did not properly record
and maintain information on complaints of child sexual abuse up
The report describes as quite extraordinary the failure to read
and take heed of the 2004 McCoy report on the diocese’s procedures
and processes which showed that the diocese was not implementing
required procedures. The diocese did not carry out proper canonical
investigations, nor did it comply with the 1999 child care guidelines.
It is appalling that those who presented a public face of concern
had a private agenda of concealment and evasion.
The commission found that in 2008 the diocese had started to follow
the procedures set out in the church documents and it is satisfied
that the diocese now has an independent advisory panel. It commends
the diocese for its efforts in training both church personnel and
the laity in the area of child protection and for recruiting risk
assessment specialists in 2009.
Particularly disturbing is the commission’s finding that
the Vatican’s response to the church guidelines was entirely
unhelpful, describing them as “merely a study document”.
This gave comfort and support to those who dissented from the guidelines.
The Vatican’s intervention and the letter sent by the Papal
Nuncio undermined not only the obligation of dioceses to comply
with the church’s own framework document but also the application
of the State’s child care guidelines. Rightly, the Tánaiste
and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade has pursued this matter
with the Papal Nuncio. We await the Vatican’s official response.
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and I are taking a
twofold approach. We are responding to the immediate problems identified
in the report and, importantly, introducing measures which will
help to establish the system of child protection children need and
deserve. We cannot depend on the undertakings of others to correct
failings and introduce robust and effective structures of protection.
The Cloyne report irrefutably confirms that some who in the past
gave such undertakings acted in bad faith. It is important to remember
that the people primarily responsible for the abuse at the centre
of the report were the abusers themselves.
The Garda Commissioner has appointed Assistant Commissioner Derek
Byrne to examine the report and determine whether further action
can be taken against the abusers referred to in it. The Garda has
set up a special telephone line which victims of clerical abuse
or anyone who has information on abuse can contact. Following the
publication of the report on the Dublin archdiocese, Assistant Commissioner
John O’Mahoney was appointed to examine it specifically in
relation to how complaints had been handled and investigated by
the church and State authorities to determine whether there had
been criminal behaviour. A number of files have been submitted to
the Director of Public Prosecutions and the examination will now
be extended to the Cloyne report.
After the publication of the Dublin archdiocese report, the Garda
Inspectorate was requested to carry out a comprehensive review of
Garda arrangements for dealing with allegations of child sexual
abuse. I have agreed with the chief inspector, Kathy O’Toole,
that in the weeks prior to the publication of its report, it will
be given a chance to review its findings in the light of the Cloyne
Most regrettably, the commission was very concerned about the approach
adopted by gardaí in a small number of cases. Following consultations
with the Garda Commissioner, I have sent the report to the Garda
Síochána Ombudsman Commission to examine it as a matter
of urgency and see whether further action is warranted. That examination
is taking place. I repeat to the House the apology I gave last week
on behalf of the State for the Garda’s failure in three cases
detailed in the report. These failures should not have occurred.
It is important to note that the commission’s overall conclusion
was that the Garda response to the cases covered by the report had
been generally adequate and appropriate. A number of complainants
were highly complimentary about the way in which gardaí had
dealt with their complaints.
I am also determined to deal with the deeper gaps which underlie
the report. Last week I published detailed legislative proposals
for a criminal justice (withholding information on crimes against
children and vulnerable adults) Bill. Deputy Calleary proposed that
my proposals be considered by the Joint Committee on Justice and
Equality and I have no difficulty with this proposal. What I am
proposing will make it an offence punishable by up to five years
imprisonment for a person who has information that could help in
the arrest, prosecution or conviction of an offender of a serious
offence committed against a child or vulnerable adult not to pass
that information on to the Garda where he or she knows that information
could help. We have already done substantial work on this in consultation
with the Attorney General and her office and I intend that it will
be a Government legislative priority to have it enacted in the autumn.
Its enactment will enable the Garda and the Director of Public Prosecutions
to investigate and prosecute those who conceal and fail to report
to the Garda sexual offences against children. The legal position
will be clear.
We have to ensure insofar as possible those who come into contact
with children do not present a danger. There is widespread agreement
that we need to make it possible to disclose what is called soft
information where this is necessary to protect children. The need
for legislation in this area was most recently highlighted in the
report published by the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment
on Children which in September 2008 called for the necessary legislation
to be published by the then Government by the following December.
Unfortunately, the Government failed to meet that commitment and
the legislation was not published during its lifetime. I am working
to bring proposals to the Government next week setting out the heads
of a national vetting bureau Bill to place the vetting of persons
working with children and vulnerable adults on a statutory basis.
The vetting of persons for certain employment positions is available
on a non-statutory basis. The Bill will provide a legislative basis
for existing arrangements in line with the recommendations of the
joint committee and the disclosure of soft information for the purposes
of child protection. Following Government approval the heads of
the Bill will be furnished to the Attorney General’s office
with a view also to its publication in final form and enactment
in the next Dáil session. As part of the Government’s
new approach to legislation, the Oireachtas justice committee will
have the opportunity to consider its content and to propose in September
any constructive amendments or additions, and to contribute to the
Bill’s developmental process.
I am determined to ensure that the church and State do what is
necessary to protect our children from those who sexually prey on
them or physically abuse them. I am determined that those who work
with children and those who recruit others to do so, in either the
public or private sector, in commercial or voluntary organisations,
behave with awareness and responsibility and in the best interests
of children. I am determined to ensure that those who know a child
has been assaulted or abused will be required to report such offence
to the Garda and that there will be consequences for their failing
to do so. I am determined that children will not be put in the way
of harm to be preyed on by those already known to have harmed a
child. We cannot correct past wrongs perpetrated on our children
but we can take action to prevent, in so far as is possible, the
wrongs of the past being perpetrated on our children in the future.
Let us on all sides in this House join together in clearly stating
that in addressing and bringing to justice those who perpetrate
child sexual abuse, the era of “mental reservation”
is over and the laws of this land will prevail and be applied.
Deputy Charlie McConalogue:
Shock, revulsion, dismay and sadness - the full lexicon of condemnation
has been used in response to the report of the Murphy commission
into the Diocese of Cloyne. I share those sentiments while realising
that no words of mine can do justice to the horrors that were inflicted
on those who suffered child abuse. It is the survivors that should
be foremost in our thoughts when dealing with this subject. The
hurt they feel must only be surpassed by the bravery of those who
came forward to give evidence to the commission of investigation.
I only hope that the publication of the report will give them some
comfort that, at last, their dreadful experiences are being believed
and acknowledged. We must bear in mind the many other survivors
whose experience of abuse is known to themselves alone and who continue
to feel unable to articulate what they went through. The State owes
a significant debt of gratitude to those survivors who gave evidence
to the commission and to the members of the commission itself -
Ms Ita Mangan, Mr. Hugh O’Neill and its chairperson, Judge
The most shocking aspect of this report is that the failures it
describes are not ancient history. All of the complaints, allegations,
concerns and suspicions of child sexual abuse referred to in the
report occurred between January 1996 and February 2009. The year
1996 is the crucial dividing line in the handling of clerical sexual
abuse in Ireland as it was the year in which the Catholic Church
in Ireland put in place detailed procedures for dealing with child
sexual abuse. The mishandling of complaints of child sexual abuse
by members of the Catholic hierarchy can never be excused no matter
when it occurred, and the fact that the Cloyne diocese simply ignored
the guidelines and procedures put in place by the hierarchy is utterly
unforgivable. It placed children in greater danger and compounded
the suffering and feeling of betrayal of survivors even further.
That the authorities in the Diocese of Cloyne, in particular Bishop
John Magee and Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan, failed in their
duty until so recently gives the lie to the oft repeated mantra
that the response to abuse reported in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s
was a product of its time, when bishops and others had little understanding
of the nature and scale of abuse. This was never a defence and has
been rubbished even more by the revelation that the church’s
own guidelines were not being followed in Cloyne until 2008. In
addition, the attitude of the Vatican towards the Irish church’s
guidelines and to the commission of investigation was nothing short
of deplorable. It is not the behaviour that we expect from a sovereign
state with whom we have friendly relations, and it certainly lacked
the moral courage and integrity that one would expect from an entity
that preaches such values.
When the Cloyne report is added to what we have learned from the
Murphy commission’s report into the Dublin archdiocese, the
Ryan report and the many other aspects of the scandal of clerical
abuse, one conclusion is very clear - self regulation is not enough,
and it must be backed up by a robust legislative framework. In that
regard, I welcome the proposals put forward by the Ministers, Deputies
Shatter and Fitzgerald, and I look forward to debating the detail
of them in the House. I hope that will occur as a matter of urgency
when we return in the autumn.
I particularly welcome the commitment that persons in certain professions,
including clergy, will be obliged to report suspicions of abuse
or face criminal penalty. This is an important step but it must
be backed up by the appropriate resources. The experience in other
jurisdictions, where a mandatory reporting requirement has been
put in place, is that the volume of reports of abuse increases massively.
For example, the number of reports made increased six-fold when
mandatory reporting was introduced in New South Wales in Australia.
It is vital that the number of social workers is increased to cope
with this. If this does not happen, the mandatory reporting requirement
may actually end up doing more harm than good, with social workers
sitting at their desks assessing the urgency of cases rather than
getting out of the office and fulfilling their role of supporting
families and protecting children. I urge the Minister to assess
carefully over the summer the resource requirements involved in
mandatory reporting before coming back to the House with legislation
in the autumn.
The other main policy issue which arises here is whether to extend
the remit of the commission of investigation to the remaining dioceses.
Fianna Fáil’s position is that at the very least all
survivors should have the opportunity to have their experiences
acknowledged in a formal setting. It would be unfair to survivors
of abuse in the 23 remaining dioceses that they would not have the
chance to give testimony to what they endured. I appreciate that
many do not wish to revisit this painful chapter in their lives.
However, many survivors were met with scepticism or denial when
they first came forward with their stories and so desire to have
it acknowledged that they were telling the truth. Fianna Fáil
has an open mind on whether this needs to be done through a full
blown commission of investigation and we hope that we can have a
discussion on it in the coming months.
It is sensible that the relevant Ministers, Deputies Shatter and
Fitzgerald, should wait for the completion of the HSE and the Catholic
Church’s national board for safeguarding children audits to
be completed before making a final decision on this. I know some
doubt has been cast - not unreasonably - on the usefulness of these
audits given that they rely on voluntary information from the church
authorities. We should wait to see Mr. Ian Elliot’s assessment
of the audits and what level of compliance there is from bishops
in publishing the audits. It is our belief that nothing short of
full publication by all bishops would be acceptable. I note that
the stance being taken by the Government now differs from that expressed
by the Fine Gael spokesperson on children a few months ago, who
called for the Murphy commission to be extended to all dioceses.
We should continue to consider the matter.
There is also a cross-Border dimension to the question of extending
the commission’s work. Six dioceses fall into this category,
and we believe it is important that the two Ministers consult their
colleagues in the Northern Executive regarding co-operation to ensure
that the audits and any possible extension of the Murphy commission
can take place effectively. Perhaps they could update the House
on their contacts in that regard when responding to this debate.
The systematic and endemic abuse of children by clergy that has
been revealed in report after report shames our State and our nation.
Church and State failed far too many children by exposing them to
predatory abusers and then compounded their suffering by failing
to act in an effective manner when the abuse was brought to light.
For the sake of some of the survivors, I hope prosecutions will
follow from the publication of the Cloyne report. More importantly,
perhaps, the outcome of the work of the Murphy commission should
be total dedication on the part of official Ireland to ensuring
all children are protected to the greatest extent possible. That
is the priority of my party, as I am sure it is of all Members of
the House. I am sure we will disagree on nuances, but Ministers
can be assured that they will find willing allies on this side of
the House in all their efforts to protect children. I hope we can
work towards that objective on a cross-party basis. In that spirit,
I commend the motion to the House.
Deputy Dan Neville: I would like to share time
with Deputy Mulherin.
An Ceann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.
Deputy Dan Neville:
I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate and would
like to deal with one aspect of the issue. Just as it is right that
we abhor child abuse, it is important for us to understand its effects
and destructive outcomes for children. When child abuse occurs,
the victim can develop a variety of distressing feelings, thoughts
and behaviours. No child is psychologically prepared to cope with
repeated sexual stimulation. Even a two year old who cannot know
sexual activity is wrong will develop problems as a result of his
or her inability to cope with over-stimulation. A child of five
years or older who knows and cares for the abuser will become trapped
between affection or loyalty for the person and the sense that sexual
activities are terribly wrong. If the child tries to break away
from the sexual relationship, the abuser may threaten the child
with violence or loss of love. A child who is the victim of prolonged
sexual abuse usually develops low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness
and abnormal or distorted views on sex. The child may become withdrawn
or mistrustful of adults. He or she can become suicidal. Children
who have been sexually abused have difficulty relating to others
other than on sexual terms. Some become child abusers or prostitutes,
or experience other serious problems, when they reach adulthood.
There are often no obvious physical signs of child sexual abuse.
A number of signs can be detected through physical examination by
a doctor. Sexually abused children may develop an unusual interest
in, or avoidance of, things of a sexual nature. They can experience
sleep problems and often have nightmares. They can suffer depression
and become withdrawn from friends or family. They may make statements
about their bodies being “dirty” or “damaged”.
They might think there is something wrong with them in the genitals
area. They may refuse to go to school, or become delinquent and
have behavioural problems. They often become secretive. They sometimes
display aspects of their sexual molestation in their drawings, games
or fantasies. They may be unusually aggressive. The child may be
extremely fearful of telling someone, although he or she might talk
freely when a special effort has been made to help him or her to
feel safe. If a child says he or she has been molested, parents
should try to remain calm and reassure him or her that what happened
was not his or her fault. They should seek a medical examination
and a psychiatric consultation.
The initial and short-term effects of abuse usually occur within
two years of the termination of the abuse. These effects vary depending
on the circumstances of the abuse and the child’s stage of
development. They may include regressive behaviour such as a return
to thumb-sucking or bed-wetting, sleep disturbance, eating problems,
behavioural or performance problems in school and non-participation
in school and social activities. The negative effects of child abuse
can affect victims for many years and into adulthood. Adults who
were sexually abused as children commonly experience depression.
High levels of anxiety in these adults can result in self-destructive
behaviours such as alcoholism, drug abuse, anxiety attacks, situation
specific anxiety disorders and insomnia. Many victims encounter
problems in their adult relationships and adult sexual functioning.
Revictimisation is a common phenomenon in people who were abused
as children. Research has shown that child sexual abuse victims
are more likely to be victims of rape or be involved in physically
abusive relationships as adults.
The ill-effects of child abuse are wide-ranging. There is no one
set of symptoms or outcomes. Some children report little or no psychological
distress from the abuse. These children may be afraid to express
their emotions and may be denying their feelings as a coping mechanism.
Other children may have sleeper effects - experiencing no harm in
the short term but suffering serious problems in later life. In
an attempt to assess whether a child can recover from sexual abuse
and to better understand the ill-effects of child abuse, psychologists
have studied the factors that seem to lessen the impact of such
abuse. The factors that affect the amount of harm done to the victim
include the age of the child, the duration, frequency and intrusiveness
of the abuse, the degree of force used and the relationship with
the abuser. Issues such as the child’s interpretation of the
abuse, whether he or she discloses the abuse and how quickly he
or she reports it also affect the short-term and long-term consequences
of the abuse. As I said, it is very easy and important to abhor
child abuse. It is just as important to understand its effects and
destructive outcomes for children.
Deputy Michelle Mulherin:
I welcome the motion. I am pleased that the proposed mandatory reporting
of knowledge of abuse of children and vulnerable adults, as envisaged
in the Children First national guidance document and recommended
in the Ryan report, will be set in stone through legislation of
this Parliament. I commend the Taoiseach, the Ministers, Deputies
Shatter and Fitzgerald, and all Members who are grasping the nettle.
The institution of the Catholic Church failed to act correctly to
protect the innocence of the country’s children. Those involved
did not live up to their responsibilities as representatives of
God’s kingdom on Earth.
Many of us who were raised as Christians in the Catholic tradition
are absolutely dismayed by the failure of the institution in these
matters to honour and stand by Christian principles that transcend
Canon Law. The separation of church and State is an imperative.
It is in keeping with the worldly authority given to us as Christians.
If it were not the case that the rule of the Earth was given to
men and women, surely the perpetrators of these most heinous crimes,
including some priests, would be struck down by God. We know this
has not happened. Therefore, it is a matter for us as human beings
to correct these wrongs politically and by means of the law. In
this case, we can do so by introducing appropriate legislation.
This domain is our God-given responsibility.
The comments of Fr. Vincent Twomey, professor emeritus in theology
in Maynooth, demand a response. He spoke about the sanctity of the
seal of the confessional, as set out in Canon Law. He said, in effect,
any interference by the civil law would offend God in some way.
He also said he was “incandescent with rage” when he
learned of the contents of the Cloyne report. He is unrepentant
about the shocking truth of how the systems of the Catholic Church
served to protect abusers and sacrifice innocents in the process
- not just in years gone by but also today in modern Ireland. This
attitude created a climate favourable to abuse in the first place
and will allow it to continue. We will not address the problem by
calling for the heads of a few bishops to roll towards atonement.
It is nothing short of idolatry to regard the institution as a
sacred cow. Idolatry is forbidden in the first and second commandments
because it creates a substitute God. Evil acts like child abuse
are carried out by individuals who are individually accountable
to God who gladly pardons repentant sinners. It is not written anywhere
that God’s forgiveness and divine law will protect, or be
used to protect, someone who has committed a crime from the full
rigours of our criminal justice system. No institution is sacred
but for the God they worship. When an institution’s members
accept acts contrary to God’s will, God rejects and judges
the institution. No institution is infallible. Every institution
is a human construct, even if it has a divine mandate. The Old Testament
is full of examples of this.
Our Lord - Jesus Christ - said that if anyone harmed one of “these
little ones”, it would be better for that person “to
be drowned”. He never spoke more seriously, other than when
he said it would have been better if his traitor had never been
born. Members of the Catholic Church who truly love God should be
glad that this evil which was perpetrated by false shepherds has
been exposed in order that they can be rid of it. It is because
I care very much about the Catholic Church and want to see it at
its best that I say this.
Again, I congratulate the Government on taking this step which
is long overdue and for which we as a nation have been crying out
for decades. If we do not protect our children, who will? I am proud
to be part of this Government which is taking this action.
Deputy Jonathan O’Brien:
I wish to share time with Deputy McLellan. As was previously stated
this morning by my colleague, Deputy Ó Caoláin, while
my party welcomes the motion, we certainly would have liked to have
seen more robust wording in some areas. Yesterday’s draft
motion was more definitive.
As someone who is a devout Catholic and who puts great stock in
his faith, I must say reading the Cloyne report was very disturbing.
Not only has the action or, depending on how one looks at it, inaction
of the church caused untold suffering on victims, it has betrayed
the many people like myself who placed faith in the teachings of
the church. The church authorities have failed to live up to the
expectations of those who believe in its teachings, and who are
still committed to the teachings, by failing to get their house
in order and putting their own self-interest above the protection
of children. They have done themselves a disservice.
No doubt this is a depressing and painful chapter in Irish history,
with each new revelation even more shocking than the one that preceded
it. The Catholic Church, the State, society and all of us as individuals
must ensure there is real change in this issue. We could not afford
the failings of the past and we certainly cannot afford to leave
our children exposed in the future. There is no easy solution to
end the vile crime of child sexual abuse but we must ensure all
the necessary protections available to us as a society are in place.
The safety of our children is paramount. There is no room for political
points scoring or ambiguity. Society demands action and our children
We failed to learn from the lessons of the past. We have seen the
Ferns, Ryan and Murphy reports, and now we have Cloyne. While the
Cloyne report did not investigate the abuse, but rather how the
church did or did not deal with the allegations, it was still very
sickening to read. The various infractions contained in this report
have been detailed in the House, in the media and in homes throughout
this State. The unacceptable lack of recording surrounding child
sexual abuse allegations and the failure to report nine out of 15
complaints made against members of the clergy is a shocking indictment
on the church as an entity. Abuse allegations that the report states
very clearly should have been reported to the relevant authorities
and were not tell their own story.
The Commission also tells of how the papal nuncio said that he
was unable to assist in this matter when requested for information.
The personal statement yesterday of Fr. Lombardi just does not cut
it. What we need, and demand, is an official response from the Vatican.
The State must also face up to its failings. Concerns regarding
the approach of Garda investigations in two cases and a dispute
between the Commission and the Garda on whether an investigation
actually occurred in a third case are worrying revelations. This
level of State incompetence is particularly worrying in the context
of the recent reports on the Ferry-Donegal school abuse controversy.
One lesson we must learn from this report relates to guidelines
and rules. It is now clear that guidelines are meaningless unless
there is a legal requirement placed on those tasked with implementing
them or the guidelines themselves are put on a statutory footing.
That is why I welcome the comments from the Minister for Justice
and Equality and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, and
their strong, unequivocal response in the wake of this report. I
assure both Ministers that Sinn Féin will not be found wanting
in supporting promised legislation by the Government that can ensure
increased protections for children. We have long advocated the use
of soft information on persons who have had allegations of child
sexual abuse made against them. It is a vital tool in protecting
children in the future and we look forward to the publication of
the promised national vetting bureau Bill.
There is no room for knee-jerk legislation in this area. We should
not do something for the sake of being seen to do it. We need good,
well thought-out and comprehensive legislation on the mandatory
reporting of child sexual abuse. The proposed legislation on withholding
information on crimes against children and vulnerable adults is
urgently needed and we welcome the commitment of the Government
to move swiftly on this. Then, and only then, can we bring about
a situation where the children of this State have adequate protections.
Deputy Sandra McLellan:
At the outset, I commend the rigorous work of her honour Judge Yvonne
Murphy and the commission. It is an absolute disgrace that it was
necessary at all.
Regrettably, we have all been down this road before. We have seen
the Ferns, Ryan and Murphy reports and now this particular report
on the diocese of Cloyne - more cases of the abuse of children by
priests and a church reluctant, at the very best, to live up to
its responsibilities to protect its flock. Unfortunately, it is
no longer shocking that the Catholic Church failed our children.
We have been over similar ground previously.
Far too often we have investigated the unhealthy relationship between
church and State and the horrors that have been perpetrated on children
by both over a long period. My party believes the motion before
the House today should have acknowledged the failure of this State
to protect children in law and in reality.
What astonishes most people about this report is that it related
to a time when the Catholic Church in Ireland had put in place detailed
procedures for dealing with child sexual abuse, and during a period
of constant revelations about child abuse by priests. Best practice,
as contained in guidelines and rules, does not matter one iota if
there is not implementation.
There was abject failure on behalf of the church and to a lesser
degree the State. This report details a litany of concealment and
evasion by the Catholic Church, including Bishop Magee’s incomplete
account of how he was handling allegations; the diocese failure
to report nine out of 15 complaints made against priests which clearly
should have been reported; the failure to report the two cases in
which the alleged victims were minors at the time the complaint
was made; the placing by the diocese of far too much emphasis on
the concerns of the alleged offenders; Monsignor O’Callaghan
withholding the identity of an alleged perpetrator from authorities
and attempting to have a particular Garda carry out the investigation;
the Commission statement that it cannot understand how the monsignor
concluded no sexual abuse had occurred in a situation where clearly
and unequivocally it had - the mind boggles; bad policing practices
by the Garda in three cases; an allegation made against Bishop Magee
in 2008 which called into question his judgment; and one complaint
in 1996 and another in 2008 being all that was reported to the health
authorities. I cannot imagine the pain, hurt and suffering caused
by this abuse. I extend my deepest sympathies to all the victims.
In the case of Cloyne, they are my friends and neighbours.
I am glad that the Government has taken issue with the disgraceful
lack of engagement by the papal nuncio with the Commission and the
outrageous interference of the Vatican in matters of child protection
in this State. While we still await an official Vatican response,
the comments today from the papal nuncio do not go nearly far enough.
I welcome the Government’s stated priority of bringing abusers
to justice, in particular, the appointment of the assistant commissioner
to examine the possibility of doing this. In addition, I make a
personal call on all abuse victims to go straight to the Garda as
the body best able to deal with allegations of abuse.
Sinn Féin will not be found wanting in supporting promised
legislation by the Government if it can be proven to improve child
protection. Like my colleagues, I call for well worked-out, good
legislation and the resources to ensure the outcomes we desire.
Sinn Féin is heartened by the Children First child protection
guidelines being placed on a statutory footing. The Government has
made firm commitments on these following the Cloyne report. We are
determined to ensure these commitments are delivered upon. We support
the motion before the House today with the caveat that we would
have preferred some areas to be stronger. This has been a long and
painful chapter in Irish history and the reports and investigations
are set to continue. The Legislature must ensure that from this
day forth no child is ever subjected to the horrors visited upon
the victims detailed in the reports to date. This must end immediately.
Deputy Regina Doherty:
I am pleased to speak on the motion but I am distressed and saddened
that we are discussing the matter in Parliament today. I wish to
focus on something one of the victims said last week. She said,
“I smell freedom”. The phrase has been going around
and around in my head. In many ways I am pleased for that lady because
people who have been sexually abused or those close to people who
have been sexually abused explain that there is no escape or freedom.
I am glad that lady feels that she is nearing the place of escape
from what she has been through. There is a great deal of suppression
by victims but there is no escape because one can never be prepared
for the trigger that set off the roller-coaster of pain, the vivid
memories, the re-living, the “if onlys” and the “what
ifs”. The life of victims is one of constantly rehashing something
over which they have no control. For many victims the only escape
is to suppress the myriad emotions which sexual abuse causes and
not to deal with them. It gives me great hope that at least one
victim has stated that she smells freedom and I pray for a good
deal more of it.
The hierarchy of the Catholic Church has let down the children
of Ireland very badly. According to Rome, the church is infallible
in its definitions on faith and morals. Plainly, this infallibility
only takes regard to the principles rather than the application.
The rules of conduct differ so widely when one considers the Vatican’s
direct intervention in Ireland undermined our child protection framework
and directly contributed to the vast number of victims of the clerical
sexual abuse. The church’s ideals around the Canon Law versus
State law argument clearly demonstrate how out of touch the church
is. Clerics assumed and continue to assume the high moral ground
using the cloak of Canon Law, while contributing directly to the
abuse of children and then to covering it up. This is heartbreaking
for any Catholic or Christian in this country and it causes its
own set of internal faith dilemmas.
I am encouraged that we are putting on a statutory basis the measures
necessary to ensure every child is protected here. There is no more
doubt. No longer will we leave it to chance or to an internal moral
code which, we now know, does not exist among some members of our
infallible church. The church as an institution has a great deal
for which to atone. It must reflect on this moral dilemma and leave
law-making to the legislators.
I take great solace in my faith, my spirituality and in God. The
gospel of Mark states, “Suffer the little children to come
unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God”.
It gives me solace that the gospel goes on to state that “those
whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me,
it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck,
and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea”. I believe
in heaven and an afterlife and I believe that someday we must all
stand before God Almighty and be judged. It gives me solace that
all of those who perpetrated these crimes against children and young
adults in the past must stand before their maker at some stage one
day. It gives me comfort that our State will enact legislation at
this time to take care of people who have failed children by directly
involving themselves in the abuse of children or thereafter covering
up alleged abuse by members of their organisations or members that
were known to them. I commend the motion to the House.
Deputy Derek Keating:
Like all Members, I am appalled at the findings of the commission
of investigation report into the handling by the church authorities
of the abuse of children in the Catholic dioceses of Cloyne. It
makes distressing reading. I stand beside and in support of those
who have been abused in the dioceses of Cloyne.
The dioceses of Cloyne is more than 800 years old, it has 46 parishes
and a population of more than 160,000 people. There are 12 religious
communities working in the dioceses with approximately 140 priests.
I make this point because I wish to highlight to the House the power
that one person, one bishop, has over a dioceses and how that one
person in Canon Law and in practise is all-powerful. I emphasise
the point because page 33 of the report states that “as long
as he operates within the canon law the bishop is free to organise
the day to day running of his diocese as he sees fit”. The
commission of investigation is aware that some 40 people may have
been affected by clerical sexual abuse in the dioceses of Cloyne.
It is unacceptable and appalling that the diocese of Cloyne never
attempted to ascertain if there were other complaints involving
the 19 clerics within its remit, of which 12 had a single complaint
made against them. I was also shocked to discover from the report
that only one priest has been convicted of child sexual abuse.
Perhaps the most distressing and shocking aspect of the report,
other than the abuse against children, is the fact that the then
Bishop of Cloyne, Bishop Magee, lied, concealed and frustrated investigations
into the abuse of children. Effectively, this gave individual Irish
bishops the freedom to ignore the procedures agreed nationally by
the Irish church. It allowed Monsignor O’Callaghan to dissent
from the stated official church policy on protecting children. Here,
the conflict between Canon Law and civil law clashes. No individual,
organisation or group can act autonomously under the law here. Yet
we have seen that through Canon Law the Bishop of a dioceses may
decide to ignore civil law with the protection of the Holy See.
I refer to the issue of mandatory reporting and why we must have
it in this jurisdiction. Mandatory reporting requires citizens to
report all suspicions of serious crime, including child abuse. Mandatory
reporting of child abuse requires all citizens or designated professionals
to report child abuse if they are aware of or suspect that child
abuse exists and that a child is at risk. However, mandatory reporting
of child abuse, suspected child abuse or wilful neglect in the European
Union falls into four categories. Of the 27 member states, Ireland,
Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom do not have mandatory
reporting as of yet. I was pleased to hear the Minister, Deputy
Shatter, announce last week as part of the Government’s response
to the report on Cloyne a new programme to protect children.
It is interesting to note that the majority of member states have
a form of mandatory reporting of child abuse and wilful neglect.
For example, Minister Paula Bennett of the New Zealand Government
is currently presenting a Green Paper on child protection which
will include mandatory reporting. It is expected to be finalised
in the autumn of this year. In Ireland, some 90% of school principals
have supported mandatory reporting of child abuse and wilful neglect.
More recently, Cardinal Seán Brady has called on the Government
to introduce mandatory reporting in its fullest form. The State
has seen numerous reports including, the Kilkenny incest case, the
Kelly Fitzgerald case, the Roscommon investigation case, the Ferns
report and the Murphy report on the Dublin dioceses. All have called
for the introduction of mandatory reporting.
A basic civil right for children is that they should be treated
the same if not better than adults, especially if a crime is committed
or suspected to have been committed against them. They should have
the full support of the State and its professionals if there is
a question of abuse or wilful neglect. Child welfare issues should
not be used by social workers and other professionals to highlight
the problem of child protection. The wrong message is being sent
to victims when we have one law for adults and another for children.
It is unacceptable that this is so, which is why I endorse wholeheartedly
the Government’s approach to dealing with this problem in
In the last few days I have received a number of items of correspondence,
some from members of the clergy, and telephone calls about the discussion
on mandatory reporting. I will not be put off my responsibility
to this House and the people who sent me here. The Government has
sent a very clear statement, expressed today, deploring the Vatican’s
intervention which contributed to the undermining of the child protection
framework and guidelines in the State. I commend the motion to the
Deputy Finian McGrath: I wish to share time with
Deputies Clare Daly and Stephen Donnelly.
An Ceann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.
Deputy Finian McGrath:
I thank the Ceann Comhairle for giving me the opportunity to speak
in this important debate on the Cloyne report. I thank and commend
Judge Yvonne Murphy, Ms Ita Mangan and Mr. Hugh O’Neill for
their excellent work. I support the all-party motion on the report
and the issue of child abuse generally.
In the debate it is important to sympathise with and support all
of the victims and remind ourselves of the trauma they have gone
through. Sympathy is not enough, however, and words are very hollow,
unless action is taken to deal with the issue of child abuse and
put in place practical supports. In the overall context of the wider
debate, let us put the blame where it lies. The leaders of the church,
the State and people failed the victims. We should never forget
this. We can have all the legislation and all of the reports we
like, but they are no good if people do not act in the interests
of the child and the victim. There can be no running away from this
reality and we all have a responsibility to ensure it happens.
I dedicate my contribution to the protestor at the gate of Leinster
House, Mr. Peter Preston, who himself was a victim of a miscarriage
of justice in regard to his family. He spends every Tuesday, Wednesday
and Thursday protesting on the issue of child abuse and neglect,
as well as the drugs issue. I commend him for his magnificent work
in carrying on his protest.
I express my dismay at the disturbing findings of the report and
the inadequate and inappropriate response, particularly of the church
authorities in Cloyne, to complaints and allegations of child sexual
abuse. I deplore the Vatican’s intervention which contributed
to the undermining of the child protection frameworks and guidelines
of the State and the Irish bishops. When I read this 421 page report
and see the evidence, I wonder what is going on in this country
after all the talk on child abuse and the so-called protections
introduced. The church, the State and the people did not take the
necessary measures to protect children - that is the reality and
it must change.
My other major concern on the issue of child sexual abuse concerns
the fact that there is another core group who have not been discussed
in great detail, namely, children with an intellectual disability
who were abused and who often have no voice. They have been and
are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse. We will always have
paedophiles in society who will look at new ways to access children
and children with disabilities are a soft, open target. Many have
suffered already and my concern is that because they are forgotten,
they will suffer again. I appeal to all front-line caring staff
to be vigilant and keep a close eye on all children and adults,
particularly those with an intellectual disability. I do not want
to read about another Roscommon or Galway case. Those involved in
front-line services must be extra careful in this regard.
The Cloyne report at page 351, paragraph 2, states:
Children have been placed at risk of harm within the Diocese
of Cloyne through the inability of that Diocese to respond appropriately
to the information that came to it regarding child protection
concerns involving the clergy. It failed to act effectively to
limit the access to children by individuals against whom a credible
complaint of child sexual abuse was made.
That conclusion is the bottom line in this debate. We have had
enough talk. We have had professional, objective and sensitive reports.
What the victims want is real action. They deserve compassion, support
and justice. The church, the State and the people must face up to
that reality and, once and for all, try to end child abuse for all
Deputy Clare Daly: If
this was the first report on clerical child sex abuse, it would
be tragic. The fact that it is one of many indicates the scale of
the horror our society has allowed to continue for far too long.
I do not believe it is something that would be tolerated or would
have happened in any other country. It is a legacy of the privileged
position of the Catholic Church and the manner in which it has been
intertwined with the development of the State from the framing of
the Constitution to its primary role in schools, hospitals and so
on, as well as in the horrors in residential institutions as discussed
last week. That special or privileged relationship with the church
is graphically shown by the all-party motion before the House. On
the one hand, it shows how far we have come, but, on the other,
it shows that we have not really moved at all. The fact that the
original wording was changed from “condemns the actions of
the Vatican” to “deplores the actions of the Vatican”
sums up the situation in which we find ourselves. I do not just
deplore what happened. In the dictionary the meaning of “deplore”
is to regret deeply. The feelings of people in this country go way
beyond regretting deeply. They are absolutely outraged at what has
been allowed to happen. If these actions had been taken in any other
country, there is no question but that it would have been deemed
to be a hostile act. If the Libyan ambassador behaved in the same
way as the Papal Nuncio, there would almost be calls for the Army
to assemble at the Libyan border. The reality is that, between the
Murphy and Cloyne reports, the Vatican was a party to a criminal
conspiracy to prevent the Irish authorities from being informed
in a timely fashion of reported cases of abuse. The refusal of the
Papal Nuncio to respond to questions is an affront to victims and
Irish society at large. As other Deputies have said, at a very minimum,
he should have been expelled. One wonders what it would take to
have some people here condemn the actions of the church if the revelations
in the Cloyne report are not enough for them to do so.
It is clear that words are inadequate to describe the harm inflicted
on children abused by the clergy. I express my own and my party’s
solidarity with the victims and commend them for their bravery in
stepping forward and telling their stories to the commission. The
fact that these crimes were perpetrated after 1996, by which time
the church was supposed to have child protection measures in place
in the aftermath of the Brendan Smyth case, goes to the heart of
the matter and demonstrates that the public repentance of the church
hierarchy cannot be trusted.
This is the most serious incident to date and the lack of prosecutions
post the Murphy report means many do not have huge confidence that
justice will be meted out to the perpetrators mentioned in the Cloyne
report either. This is an issue for which the Minister must account.
Much funding has been expended on these reports but very few have
been brought to justice. We need to see action in this regard. Obviously,
the State is also hugely culpable and while it is very convenient
to allow the church to take the blame, it must step up to the mark
also. Unless there is full separation of church and State, these
issues will never be adequately addressed.
Deputy Stephen Donnelly:
I would like to step back in time a little to the Ireland of the
1970s. A young man enters a seminary; the priestly vocation is a
challenging one and, accordingly, in 1978 the young man goes for
a psychological assessment which does not go well. There is an indication
of deep sexual repression and he scores very high on the psychosis
scale. However, no obstacles are put in his path. He is ordained
and joins a parish in north Cork in the mid-1980s. We will call
him Fr. Calder which is not his real name.
People became worried almost immediately. In 1988, a young man
alleged a sexual assault but did not make a formal complaint. There
were reports that Fr. Calder had been giving alcohol to young adults
and spiking their drinks. Another report of sexual abuse was made
but again no formal complaint followed. Fr. Calder then moved to
another parish in Cork where another “soft” complaint
of sexual abuse was made. In July 1997, the diocese announced that
Fr. Calder was to move to a new parish in north Cork beside the
one in which he started his career. However, the locals there did
not want him near their children and they mounted a campaign. The
diocese made some inquiries, asked Fr. Calder about the allegations,
which he denied, and the transfer went ahead.
Almost immediately, Fr. Calder was appointed chairman of the board
of management of the local national school. The principal was concerned
for the safety of the children in her school but was unable to do
anything or bring it to the attention of the board of management
because Fr. Calder was its chairman. There had previously been a
custom in the school of letting boys leave school during the day
to serve as altar boys for daily mass. The principal had stopped
this practice some time previously but her new chairman, Fr. Calder,
now asked her to start letting the boys out again and moreover,
he asked that they come to him for altar boy training during school
time. The principal, out of concern for their safety, refused. Was
Fr. Calder embarrassed, uncomfortable or ashamed? No, he threatened
her and stated that effectively, he could withhold her salary unless
she did what he asked. Finally, the diocese launched an investigation
into Fr. Calder. In October 1997, he was sent for assessment to
the Granada Institute, where he was unco-operative.
Acting Chairman (Deputy Jack Wall): I ask the
Deputy to conclude.
Deputy Stephen Donnelly: What happened? He was
neither defrocked nor stripped of his right to practice as a priest.
Instead, he returned to ministry, albeit this time to an old folks’
home, and further reports then ensued.
This story is at the heart of the Cloyne report. A possibly abusive
priest was placed in a position with access to children and with
authority over the school principal. When the church finally took
note of the concerns about the priest, it apparently launched an
inquiry but the Cloyne report implies the documents may be deliberately
inaccurate. The priest was moved but not supervised and Bishop Magee
made no attempt to monitor his progress. A report was made to the
Vatican but nothing has been heard of it since. This organisation
controls 93% of primary schools in Ireland. This organisation actively
discriminates against children who do not belong to it from joining
the State schools it controls. There is a problem in this regard.
It is not simply about secularisation or multiculturalism but is
about care for our children. I believe in the value of faith formation.
However, the Catholic Church has proved it is absolutely unfit and
absolutely not competent to run our schools. It is time for it to
remove itself or be removed.
Deputy Michael McCarthy: I wish to share time
equally with Deputy Maloney.
Acting Chairman (Deputy Jack Wall): Is that agreed?
Deputy Michael McCarthy:
I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. What has
happened in the context of Cloyne is appalling. It is immoral, illegal
and disgusting and during this week, more of this spin, this language
and these questions have emanated from people who are at the centre
of the report. I refer in particular to Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan,
who is a former chairman of County Cork VEC. He served on boards
of management and was involved in an authority that educates young
children in County Cork. There was zero accountability from that
man this week and when it was put to him by a reporter that he had
failed the victims of this abuse, he had the temerity and cheek
to ask in what way. That is damned brazen, to say the least. Moreover,
no account has been given of Bishop John Magee’s whereabouts.
Allegedly, he could be in Rome or in America. Is one honestly expected
to believe that people involved in that organisation do not know
where he is?
I find it equally appalling that the Vatican would meddle in affairs
of the Irish State. Deputy Clare Daly was quite correct to state
that had it been any other ambassador, he or she would have been
expelled. This is an option the Government should consider. One
should note that although guidelines were established in the wake
of the horrific abuse perpetrated by Fr. Brendan Smyth, people like
Monsignor O’Callaghan did not believe in them. Moreover, he
openly admits to not having any faith in the aforementioned guidelines
and did not consider it necessary to pass on details of abuse to
members of An Garda Síochána. It is critical that
Members bear in mind the timeframe in this regard. These are not
atrocities one can consign to the 1950s, 1960s or the 1970s as the
period under investigation extends from 1996 to 2008.
One should note that the church authorities in the present era
are still fumbling when it comes to this issue, to put it mildly,
and that this is the fourth major clerical abuse inquiry to take
place in Ireland. An absolutely disturbing aspect of this report
is that it is patently clear that church authorities appear to have
learned nothing from previous reports. On foot of the Murphy report,
the papal nuncio stated that the Vatican was ashamed of its findings
and that he would undertake to assist in the forthcoming report
into the diocese of Cloyne. He and the Vatican did so by doing their
level best to obstruct it. Judge Yvonne Murphy has proved the nuncio’s
statement to be absolutely and utterly redundant. She has accused
the Holy See of being “entirely unhelpful” in its reaction
to inquiries from the commission. As Judge Murphy has concluded
the Vatican was unhelpful despite a commitment given by the papal
nuncio to the effect that it would assist in the investigation into
abuse, I believe it is a resigning matter for him.
It is important to stress that the report was not an investigation
into allegations of child sexual abuse but rather a report into
how allegations made in Cloyne were handled after January 1996.
In that vein, the report has singled out Bishop John Magee, who
was a personal secretary to three Popes, for misleading inquiries
into the mishandling of abuse claims. The report concluded that
Rome effectively gave Bishop Magee carte blanche to ignore guidelines
and offer comfort and support to senior clerics such as Monsignor
Denis O’Callaghan who defied official policy on paedophile
priests and did not believe they should be reported to the authorities.
One aspect of this abhorrent case is that Monsignor O’Callaghan
refers to survivors of this abuse as “accusers”, almost
as though their claims were spurious and without foundation. That
man, who was the delegate of Bishop John Magee, has contributed
singularly to the hurt and pain of the survivors of this abuse.
Moreover, this man contributes to the ongoing pain and hurt of those
who have been victimised and abused by paedophile priests. I echo
the sentiments expressed by the Taoiseach, who eloquently spoke
in this Chamber this afternoon about this ugly and disgusting saga
of Irish history. I also agree with the Tánaiste’s
comment that what has happened was totally inappropriate and unjustified
and constituted an unacceptable intervention.
I welcome the plans proposed by the Minister for Justice and Equality
to jail for up to five years any priest who fails to disclose information
on serious offences against a child. I also welcome confirmation
from Garda assistant commissioner Derek Byrne that the Children
First guidelines will be incorporated into Garda training. While
the findings of the Cloyne report are abhorrent, it singles out
the individuals who were responsible and who continue to contribute
to the hurt and suffering experienced by victims. It goes against
the teachings of the Gospel and of Jesus Christ and these people
are nothing short of being outright criminals.
Deputy Eamonn Maloney:
I thank the Minister for Justice and Equality for the prompt manner
in which he has published this unfortunate report. I am sure that
any new Minister in that portfolio would have gained some relief
during the early months of his or her tenure from not being obliged
to deal with this subject matter. However, it is part of our history
and thanks to the report by the commission, is now public knowledge.
I also wish to mention the commission’s members, namely, Judge
Yvonne Murphy, Ms Ita Mangan and Mr. Hugh O’Neill for the
valuable work they have done. More importantly, I wish to single
out those mentioned in the report who have been hurt the most, that
is, the victims who have suffered in isolation. I pay homage to
them and to their bravery in coming forward to co-operate with this
commission as it has not been an easy decision for them.
Human beings have inflicted different types of cruelty on children.
Cruelty can take different forms such as the denial of food, bullying
or lack of adequate clothing. These are examples of the neglect
of children by adults. However, there is no more horrible crime
against children than sexual abuse and this is what some members
of the clerical orders of the Roman Catholic Church engaged in over
a long period of time in this country. Other speakers referred to
other various reports in this regard. It is part and parcel of the
hidden Ireland and, as the previous speaker said, has been happening
in more recent times. The church has many questions to answer. People
are angry with the church and rightly so. Those who committed the
crimes and those in the church who knew but who said nothing are
Previous speakers have referred to the church and the State. I
seldom use the word “state” because of what was happening
during the period since our independence. The church failed these
children and so did politicians. The Roman Catholic Church had a
special position in this State and it used it. A very few in this
House questioned the authority and the rule of the Roman Catholic
Church but they paid a great price and one or two notable people
spoke out to their cost.
I refer to an interesting example of an individual speaking out
on a “Late Late Show” 44 years ago in 1967. An unknown
person who was a member of a movement called Reform was invited
onto the guest panel. His name was Frank Crummey - he is still alive,
in his 70s and I am honoured to say he is my neighbour and a good
friend. During the panel discussion Frank stated that as the panel
members were sitting in the studio, children in institutions in
Ireland were being abused. He paid a big price for his statement.
Apart from the fact that he was heckled and could not continue,
he was almost physically attacked during the break in the programme.
It did not end there. His children were ostracised at school on
the following days and he was spat upon in public. Frank Crummey
was the first man to state publicly that abuse of children was taking
place and that politicians and the church should deal with it. Let
us hope this is the end of this and that this report is the last
Deputy Barry Cowen:
I join with other speakers in supporting the motion and I commend
all parties for agreeing the motion. Like others, I deplore the
Vatican’s intervention which contributed to the undermining
of the child protection frameworks and guidelines of the Irish State
and of Irish bishops. I further concur with the condemnation of
the inadequate and inappropriate response of, in particular, the
church authorities in Cloyne, to complaints and allegations of child
sex abuse. I understand the frustration and anger of many people
with regard to these matters. I can empathise with the call for
the expulsion of the papal nuncio. However, it is this line of communication
which must be continued to be used and which must be continued in
our efforts to demand answers from the Vatican. I also compliment
Judge Murphy and her colleagues on the commission for their sterling
work in this regard. I compliment the victims for their courage
and fortitude, for the initial telling of their abuse and their
subsequent dealings with those in authority.
I refer to a statement in a newspaper today from Derek Mulligan
who is connected to the case in Donegal. I note the eloquent manner
in which he described his feelings and the consternation caused
in his life before he came forward with details of his own abuse:
I carried this cross on my back for 12 years, unable to forgive
myself for what this demon did to me. He took my soul, my faith
and my heart. He also haunted my dreams. I was unable to love.
I was scared of everyone and everything. I kept running from place
to place, Dublin to Spain to Letterkenny and to Derry.
This is a snapshot of the hurt and pain and the feelings of many
young people throughout the country and specifically of those we
talk about today and we commend them for their part in bringing
forward this report and in bringing forward what will be a new direction
for the State in imposing the will of the people and the will of
this House as to how these matters are dealt with in the future.
I commend the initial response of the Government and I commend
the programme for dealing with this issue. I commend the movement
from voluntary reporting to that of mandatory reporting. However,
I ask what measures will be put in place to augment this policy.
Examples from other jurisdictions show that the move from voluntary
to mandatory reporting results in a significant increase in the
number of reports. I refer to the example of New South Wales in
Australia which in 1998 adopted a policy of mandatory reporting
instead of voluntary reporting. Thirty thousand cases were reported
in 1998 and in 2008 the figure was 180,000 cases reported. There
had been a sixfold increase in a ten-year period. The number of
social workers was doubled from 1,000 to 2,000 on the day mandatory
reporting was introduced.
In Ireland today, between 5% and 10% of children in the care of
the State do not have an assigned social worker. There is already
pressure on our system and this is before putting in place the correct
facilities, implementation plan, funding and personnel. We should
take lessons from the Ryan report which was issued two years’
ago. It dealt with abuse in residential institutions. The subsequent
implementation plan was accompanied by funding of €24 million.
The plan provided for the provision of 270 new social workers. A
total of 200 have been employed but 70 are still required in that
area. In addition to the percentage of children who do not have
an assigned social worker or care assistant, there is a deficit
of 70 social workers for those affected by the Ryan report. These
are further strains and further pressures.
What assessments have been carried out by the relevant Departments
of the move from voluntary to mandatory reporting? What provisions
are consequent to that assessment? What funding or personnel can
be provided in order to ensure the success of the plan? Will the
Government publish any assessments which have been carried out?
Can we scrutinise them and ensure adequate resources are being provided?
If it has not been carried out can the Government commit to carrying
it out forthwith? Can it commit to augmenting it with the relevant
funds and personnel to assure our people that these children can
be assured of the sort of care that is required further to the publication
and further to the distress heaped upon them?
I commend the strength, depth and quality of debate that has been
forthcoming from all sides of the House today. I commend the Government
on its initial reaction and for its goodwill, good faith and commitment
to introduce the sorts of measures that will prevent issues such
as this from arising again. However, in the recent Donegal case
there was reporting and the HSE and Garda were informed and yet
it still persisted. We are at a major juncture in the history of
the State in this regard. The Members of this House can have a significant
impact on how we deal with these issues in the future and we must
deal with them correctly. Every effort should be made to ensure
that the provisions and steps being discussed are followed through,
not only by means of words and reporting, but we also need the support
system in place to coincide with that report. I refer to a support
system in the area of funding and in personnel and then we will
be able to address all the issues that have arisen in Dublin, Cloyne
and Donegal. Despite the drip-feed of this terrible saga in the
past 20 years, the Cloyne report refers to 2008 and the Donegal
case refers to the present day. Reporting is not enough without
the relevant funding and personnel in place to augment and support
it. I commend the motion to the House.
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald):
Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald It
is important that we together declare our determination in one voice,
clear and unequivocal, to stand with the nation in seeking to safeguard
our children. We have done that today by the adoption of an all-party
motion in this House. I welcome that and I express my appreciation
for the all-party support in the range of contributions here today.
For our part and on behalf of the Government, the Minister for Justice
and Equality, Deputy Shatter, and I are acting with an urgency and
absolute determination to bring forward a programme of firm actions
to strengthen our nation’s child protection framework.
I commend the bravery of all those individuals who came forward
and told the commission of their experiences. Without their crucial
input we would not have a report of such detail and quality. I appreciate
that events of this nature can cause painful memories to resurface.
For any person affected by the report’s content I wish to
repeat that help is available and join the Minister, Deputy Shatter,
in expressing our sincere apologies for any failings of the State.
For all of us last week is one that we would love to forget, but
must always remember. This is not the first investigation into the
handling of allegations of child abuse by church authorities, but
is one of many. However, unlike previous reports, the Cloyne report
showed us that child abuse and endangerment is not something that
happened back in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s or 1980s. The report showed
us that child abuse and endangerment can happen and is still happening
Chapter 27 of the report goes into some detail about the experiences
of the victims of clerical abuse. It is the last chapter and has
a simple and almost bureaucratic title: “The Complainants”.
It contains the evidence of what happens to little children when
child protection guidelines are declared by the Vatican to be nothing
more than “study documents”. While the study continued,
so did the abuse. Chapter 27 quotes the adults those little children
become. The Complainants is a chapter largely made up of their words,
which I wish to put on the record of the House. One comment was:
“my mother reared five children, how did she get one so different.
I am like a shadow.” Another comment was: “Separate
instances. They all mulch into one, one long brain turning, nauseating
role of events.” Yet another comment was: “what was
so awful about all of this all of my life is I felt that I was the
one who did something dreadful, that I was the one so isolated in
shame until I knew better, you know, and that is exactly what he
Over the past few days we have heard additional commentary from
individuals affected by clerical child abuse in the Cloyne diocese
and their families. It is heartbreaking to hear of normal lives
being thrown so far off course that some of those affected have
never experienced the stability we all yearn for in our lives. Modest
goals such as relationships, family and employment eluded people
who just could not cope. Some individuals have taken many years
to rebuild their lives. Some, tragically, never recovered.
The publication last week of the Cloyne report has generated significant
public anger and concern as was reflected in the contributions here
today. However, reports since then of cases in Galway and Donegal
have further heightened that anger and concern - and rightly so.
We owe it to our children to ensure that whether in the family home,
at school, in church or in engaging in any other activities, formally
or informally, they are protected.
The Government must be assured that all legal and practical measures
are being taken to guarantee this. On behalf of the Government and
in conjunction with my colleague the Minister, Deputy Shatter, we
are engaged in a series of measures designed to achieve this. As
the Minister outlined to the House, he has published the Criminal
Justice (Withholding Information on Crimes against Children and
Intellectually Disabled Persons) Bill 2011. Last week I published
the Children First National Guidance 2011. It provides a robust
code for the protection and welfare of children offering clear direction
to individuals, organisations and agencies on what they need to
do to keep children safe. I urge people and organisations to familiarise
themselves with it.
In recognition of the importance of Children First, the HSE will
publish an associated child protection and welfare practice handbook,
which will be very helpful for front-line professionals. These two
publications will provide clearer direction and support to front-line
staff and organisations working with children. They will also set
out the respective roles of the statutory agencies responsible for
Last week I received Government agreement to introduce legislation
to require, for the first time, statutory compliance with Children
First. This will include a statutory requirement on individuals
to report to the relevant authorities where, in good faith, they
have reasonable concerns over the abuse or neglect of a child. However,
the scope of Children First extends beyond the narrow focus of reporting
on its own. We do not want to create simply a reporting culture
and nothing else because protecting children involves more than
making a once-off report. Instead, through requiring statutory compliance
with Children First, I propose a much broader-based and comprehensive
approach to child protection laying down the broader responsibilities
of organisations that are in contact with or providing services
to children. This will include a requirement regarding the sharing
of information, which is so important if we are to protect children.
The need for such requirement was proven again this week on foot
of reports of the Donegal case.
Last week, we learned of the shocking inadequate and inappropriate
response by the diocese of Cloyne, to complaints and allegations
of child sexual abuse in the period from between 1996 and 2008.
The diocese did not comply with the church guidelines, nor did it
comply with Children First. It is therefore vital that guidance
translates into implementation on the ground. We must have compliance
without exception or exemptions. Never again should someone be allowed
to place the protection of the institution or organisation above
the protection of children. As I stated last week, the days of voluntary
compliance are over when it comes to child protection. The new legislation
I will introduce will provide for a strong system of inspection
and oversight. On the need to provide demonstrable evidence that
the guidance is being implemented correctly across all sectors,
we will also have what is called an assurance framework, an assurance
setting out the responsibilities of each Department and sector working
with children and it will be implemented. I will chair an interdepartmental
committee in this regard.
We need capacity in our child protection services, but it is equally
important that we focus on appropriate management, consistency of
response and the creation of a world class model of child protection,
as stated by Mr. Gordon Jeyes, the new director of the HSE’s
child and family services section.
Yesterday, I laid before the Houses the second progress report
on the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Ryan
report implementation plan. Putting Children First on a statutory
footing was a key recommendation of the Ryan report. As to those
Deputies who raised doubts in this regard, this is the policy of
the Government and every political party in the House. Although
it was promised by the previous Government in 1999, it is being
done only now. The proposed recruitment of 270 additional social
workers will go ahead. These posts are exempt from the public service
recruitment embargo and 260 of them will have been filled by the
end of this year.
The Department of Justice and Equality, with some support from
my Department, is close to completing its work on the vetting legislation.
The report’s principal findings cast cold light over the
practices of church authorities in the diocese of Cloyne. It is
particularly disappointing that the diocese did not as a matter
of course report and notify allegations and concerns to the statutory
authorities. This would have been in keeping with State guidelines
and the reporting procedures adopted by the church.
For those who reported painful and horrific episodes in their lives
in the expectation that some positive action would be taken by the
diocese, I cannot imagine the sense of disappointment and anger
at what can be only seen as the inaction of the church authorities
in Cloyne. The initial surprise response yesterday from a Vatican
spokesman, whether in a personal capacity or not, has not helped.
The church in particular must fully engage with the outcome of
and responses to the Cloyne report. Last week, I called for a decisive
shift to a culture of transparency and public accountability. In
particular, I called for the publication by the National Board for
Safeguarding Children of the audit of each diocese it undertakes
and for acceleration in its conduct of all such audits. I note and
welcome that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has joined in my call to
publish the diocesan reviews by the board.
I will soon be in receipt of the long awaited report of the HSE
audit of child protection in Roman Catholic dioceses, which should
indicate whether all allegations known to church authorities are
being properly reported to the State authorities, namely, the Garda
and the HSE. In the meantime, I have asked the HSE’s national
director for children and family services, Mr. Jeyes, to engage
directly with the National Board for Safeguarding Children on a
programme of action designed to ensure that the Catholic church
is responding properly and comprehensively to all child protection
concerns. Mr. Jeyes has already made contact with the board in this
regard and will report to me on the progress achieved.
I commend all those who already work so hard to ensure every child
with whom they interact is cared for, supported and protected. These
are the practitioners in the professional and voluntary sectors,
medical professionals, gardaí, youth workers, teachers and
coaches all over Ireland who already passionately employ best practice
in child protection. They understand their duties and do not need
legislation to keep children safe. As the reports recount, though,
there are those who do not make child protection their prime objective,
whether by omission or commission, out of ignorance or malice. We
are introducing new laws to use the State’s powers of prosecution
to protect our children.
Although we will introduce laws, it takes a community to protect
a child, as evidenced by recent cases. The measures proposed by
the Government will, with Opposition input and support, cumulatively
leave a lasting legacy when it comes to child protection by putting
in place laws, practices and mechanisms to ensure the evils highlighted
in cases such as Cloyne and other cases are never again allowed
to take root in any setting.
Question put and agreed to.