Commission of Investigation Report in the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne: Motion
Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Dáil Éireann Debate
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 great damage.

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 many years.

The Ryan report exposed in great detail the systematic brutalisation and exploitation of children through many decades.

2 o’clock

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, the truth.

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 states:

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.

Deputy Caoimhghín 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 molesters.

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 a scandal.

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 crime.

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 the Dáil.

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 been deplorable.

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 guidelines.

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.

Debate adjourned.

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 to 2008.

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 report.

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 Yvonne Murphy.

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 deserve action.

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 society.

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 House.

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 children.

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.

5 o’clock

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? 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 all guilty.

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 report.

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 today.

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 wanted.”

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 child protection.

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.








Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.