Top-Level Talks on Priest Sex Abuse
Catholic Leaders and Police Chiefs to Meet

By Sarah Brett
Belfast Telegraph [Northern Ireland]
February 3, 2006

Top-level talks will take place next week between Catholic church leaders and police chiefs as part of a probe into the scale of clerical sex abuse in Northern Ireland.

The meeting comes as the Government today confirmed it has not ruled out an independent public inquiry into paedophile priest allegations.

In the latest of a series of private meetings, health chiefs and the PSNI are due to meet senior figures from the Catholic church on Monday to assess the situation before reporting to the Secretary of State Peter Hain.

On January 17, legal representatives of the Church met separately with the PSNI. The Church has agreed to supply relevant information on allegations of clerical child sex abuse to the police.

DUP Assemblyman, David Simpson, has lobbied for a probe since last year and said today: "I believe we'll get it."

On Monday in the House of Commons he asked Health Minister Shaun Woodward when the Secretary of State would make recommendations and decide on whether to instigate an inquiry.

"On completion of current consultations, all possible options will be considered including the need for an independent public inquiry and recommendations will be made," Mr Woodward replied.

The Northern Ireland Office would not outline a timescale for any decisions today.

However, Mr Woodward's department released a statement saying: "Consultations are ongoing with senior representatives of the Roman Catholic Church. A public inquiry will only be initiated in circumstances where it is thought appropriate to do so.

"Such circumstances do not currently exist. However, should the situation change then all possible options will be considered."

Meanwhile, the Catholic communications office in Maynooth indicated that the Church would co-operate in the event of an independent public inquiry.

"The Catholic Church is co-operating, and will continue to co-operate, with the civil authorities to ensure the protection and welfare of children. This remains our primary concern," a spokesman said.

Mr Simpson said full disclosure was essential.

"The church has agreed to disclose relevant information to the PSNI and this is a big step forward which must be welcomed," he said.

Bishop of Derry Seamus Hegarty revealed in October last year that around 40 child sex abuse allegations have been made against 26 priests in the Derry diocese over the last 50 years. And around 13 of those are still working in the Church, some in the Derry diocese.


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