Half allegations against Columbans involved one priest - review

By Patsy Mcgarry
Irish Times
May 12, 2014

Laicised Columban priest Patrick Maguire has been convicted a number of times both in the UK and Ireland. Photograph: Collins Courts.

Missionary order ‘commended’ on its commitment to the management of accused men

Twelve priests at the Missionary Society of St Columban (Columbans) faced 41 allegations since January 1st 1975, with one convicted in the courts,a review by the church's child protection watchdog has found. The National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) review found that “the vast majority of the allegations on file (24 in total, with three which are indeterminate) refer to P.M., who was a Columban priest from 1960 until his suspension from the Society in 2000. P.M .had served as a priest in Ireland, in Japan and in the UK.”

This refers to Patrick Maguire, a Columban priest, who was laicised in 2010. He has been convicted a number of times both in the UK and Ireland. He is currently serving two suspended sentences of three years dating from May of last year and resides under strict supervision at the the Columban’s Dalgan Park in Co Meath. He also featured in the 2009 Murphy report as he abused while in the Dublin archdiocese for a period.

Of the remaining 17 allegations against Columban missionaries, the review has found that “eight refer to five living priests and nine to a total of six deceased priests. Three of the living priests reside in Ireland and their cases have been referred to the civil authorities. There have been no prosecutions in these cases to date. All are subject to internal management by the Society.”

However, the reviewers were advised “of the residence in Dalgan Park of a priest who was not a Columban, in respect of whom a child abuse allegation had previously been made whilst in his own diocese.”

The reviewers noted that the diocese had advised the NBSC “that there was verbal communication, although there is no record of this in the safeguarding files.” This, it felt, was “ far from satisfactory, as none of the current Columban post-holders were made aware of the relevant safeguarding information, which included background details and the imposition of restrictions by his own bishop”.

A process is now in place for assessment and risk management appropriate to this particular case, it found but that “the reviewers are critical of the diocese’s failure to inform the Columban Missionaries in writing, which is unacceptable from a child safeguarding perspective.” It is understood this refers to a west of Ireland diocese.

The review felt the incident illustrated “the importance of clear lines of communication in relation to safeguarding children in the interfaces between religious organisations and dioceses and the importance of appropriate information sharing.”

The reviewers noted that “the Columban Missionaries have actively sought to provide outreach and support to victims where possible, including those cases where the respondent priests are deceased”.

The NBSC reviewers “noted that none of the men against whom allegations have been made have left the Columban community, despite the imposition of restrictions and supervision by the Society. Representatives from the civil agencies have described the management of these men within the community as an important protective factor”.

The review continued “the Society is commended on its commitment to the management of these men, which makes an important contribution towards the reduction of the risk of re-offending”.

It also said that “representatives from an Garda Síochana and from the Health Service Executive (HSE) have confirmed to the reviewers that communication with the Society has greatly improved and is moving in the right direction in terms of reporting allegations and consulting on responding to concerns.”

It said the Columbans were “ currently engaged in a worldwide policy-review, guided by the experience gained in the Irish region, to improve the safeguarding standards expected from all regions around the world”.


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