On 8 April, 2011 the High Court directed that publication of certain parts of the report of 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 be not published until the court otherwise directs.
A decision of the High Court on 16 December last, allowed for the publication of those parts of the report. Consequently, those parts of the report have now been made available on the Department’s website www.justice.ie. There is an obligation, in law, on the Minister for Justice to publish the report as soon as possible.
Minister Shatter said: "The publication this afternoon of the redacted portions of the Cloyne Report yet again details the failure of the Church to comply with its own child abuse guidelines and its failure to ensure that allegations of abuse when first received were brought to the notice of An Garda Síochána. The litany of allegations made and the failure to appropriately report cases of abuse reinforces the need to enact a statutory measure for the protection of children in the future. Work is continuing on the Criminal Justice (Withholding Information on Crimes against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill 2011 and observations on the Heads of the Bill previously published are expected to be received from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality in January. I hope to publish the Bill as finalised in the New Year. I welcome the fact that we are able today to complete publication of the Cloyne Report and reiterate the Government’s commitment to take all necessary action to ensure children are properly protected."
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD, has welcomed the publication of material previously redacted. She recognises that the publication of this additional material will serve as a painful reminder for those involved. She emphasised that the HSE National Counselling Service is operating a special phone line on freephone 1800 234 116 which is available to support those affected by child abuse. Minister Fitzgerald joined with Minister Shatter in renewing their call for anyone who has any information relating to the abuse of children to come forward and report this to the statutory authorities.
Following the publication of the Cloyne report, Ministers Shatter and Fitzgerald outlined a detailed Government response to the publication of the report of the Commission of Investigation into the Diocese of Cloyne. A programme of work, including the introduction of new legislation to underpin the Children First National Guidance, is being progressed with a view to significantly strengthening the current policy and legal framework in respect of child welfare and protection.
The HSE’s National Director for Children and Family Services, Gordon Jeyes, is also working closely, at the request of Minister Fitzgerald, with Ian Elliott, the Chief Executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church. The focus of this engagement is on ensuring that the Catholic Church is reporting all allegations of abuse to the statutory authorities in line with the Children First National Guidance, and that it has in place the necessary safeguarding structures nationally.
Minister Fitzgerald said: "I am deeply disturbed at the findings in this previously redacted chapter. My thoughts are with the complainants in this chapter and their families, all of whom must be commended for their courage and perseverance. Their painful experiences recounted in the report were made many times more difficult by the desperately poor response they received from the church authorities in Cloyne. Despite repeated attempts to have their voice heard, they could not ensure that the serious allegations they made against a Cloyne cleric were dealt with appropriately. Time and time again they were disappointed and hurt once more. These families did not ask for this burden, it was placed on them by the irresponsibility of the church authorities in Cloyne. It is clear that the priority of the Church authorities in Cloyne was the protection of the institution of the Church and not the protection of children in the diocese or the protection of other children.
I want to make it very clear - it is absolutely unacceptable that child abuse allegations were not reported to the Gardaí and the HSE in a timely way by the Church authorities. The handling of child abuse allegations is not discretionary; there is no choice, no exception. All allegations must be reported so that the allegation itself is investigated and any potential risk to other children is assessed.
In my view the most shocking aspect of the Cloyne report is that it deals with issues right up to the very recent past. It is not dealing with terrible wrongs committed in the distant past but how the Diocese of Cloyne dealt with complaints made from 1996, the year in which the Catholic Church put in place detailed procedures for dealing with child sexual abuse.
The publication of this chapter comes after the publication of the National Safeguarding Board’s audit of the safeguarding practices in six Catholic dioceses. I was pleased both that the reports were
published and that they demonstrated evidence of improvements in safeguarding practices. However, the evidence in Cloyne shows that the appalling practices of the past continued in Cloyne right up to 2008. We cannot be complacent about child protection and I believe that the only way to ensure the protection of children is to make it clear in law that allegations of child abuse must be reported to the Gardaí and HSE for investigation. In the coming months I will introduce legislation to put the state's child protection rules, Children First, on a statutory basis. Significant work is complete on this legislation and I am submitting a further Memorandum to the Government on it this week. I expect it will be before the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children in the next Dáil session for wider consultation."
19 December, 2011
Note for Editors
The redacted report was published on 13 July, 2011. It included a redacted version of chapter nine in light of the decision of the High Court. The portions of the report being published today consist of the unredacted chapter nine, four related unredacted pages of Appendix 1 and certain references in the index to chapter nine.