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September 2012 Archives

Fines on media could fund investigative journalism

 

 

EMILY O'REILLY

OPINION: The new Mary Raftery Journalism Fund aims to be a critical tool in preserving democracy

JOURNALISM – OR what is now rather sentimentally called traditional journalism – faces a challenge that really can be called existential. The digital revolution has brought change on a scale that is as irresistible as it is profound and, matched with a global recession, the result is freefall. Digital has done to newspapers and to the human architecture of old media what the motorcar did to the ass-and-cart – and to the ass-and-cart drivers.

The print media’s former customers have now become their own publishers. The walls between the professional and the outside amateur have collapsed. The broadcast media is also affected. We witnessed last week the closure of RTÉ’s London office for budgetary reasons, and advertising revenue is increasingly migrating to the digital world.

Budgets are squeezed and journalism has to suffer as a consequence. Investigative journalism is an expensive commodity, but it is also a vital commodity for the holding of the State and of its institutions to account – and nothing represents the truth of that more than the journalism of Mary Raftery.

In Britain, part prompted by the telephone-hacking scandal that prompted the Leveson inquiry, a House of Lords select committee began an investigation into “The Future of Investigative Journalism”, embarking upon an extensive engagement with, among others, regulators, government ministers, media owners and journalists.

It was an exercise that legislators in this country might do well to emulate. The committee’s report, published in February, set out the worth of investigative journalism alongside the challenges, but it also defined its terms.

Investigative journalism – as opposed to other kinds of reporting – is characterised as that which requires a significant investment in terms of resources and/or funding, runs a high risk of potential litigation and uncovers previously unreported issues of public interest.

Mary Raftery’s journalism ticked all of those boxes. Many of us are aware of the barriers she encountered, at times within RTÉ itself, as she sought to have her and her team’s work afforded its appropriate space in the station schedules. At the commemoration service for Mary in the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, her husband David spoke of the impact this had on her both emotionally and physically. Yet, almost by definition, investigative journalism and its practitioners have to meet and seek to overcome obstacles that challenge them in the way Mary and her team were challenged.

Anything of worth, anything that churns up the institutions – private or public – of a State to a point where those institutions have profoundly to change will always be met by the human defensive desire to resist, to avoid.

At its best, said the UK report, investigative journalism informs and educates us, enhances our democracy and is a force for good. It is a key part of the system of democratic governance and accountability. Yet rapid technological, economic and behavioural change is creating profound economic, legal and regulatory challenges for such journalism and how it might be conducted in future.

Investigative journalism is particularly vulnerable to economic pressures, as it is inherently risky and comes with no guaranteed return. We are all aware of the catastrophic outcome of the Prime Time Investigates – Mission to Prey programme, not just for the person at the centre of the story, but also for the journalists involved, most if not all of whom – I contend – set about their work with the highest of motivation.

One of the risks of such resource-heavy investigations is that at a certain point, hard decisions have to be made which may include the jettisoning of an entire, expensive piece of work. But that is the price.

In its conclusions, the Lords committee recommended that government and media explore a number of new ways in which the type of journalism that serves as a vital accountability tool in a democracy might be supported in the face of the declining revenues of traditional newspaper and broadcast media. One proposal was that such journalism could be deemed to have a charitable purpose, and so qualify for appropriate reliefs.

Some British politicians were forced to reach for the smelling salts when that was suggested, with the secretary of state for culture musing about the “curiosity” of being asked to support “something that is supposed to make my life difficult”. Even the committee found it difficult to give it a full-throated approval, yet if such journalism really is deemed to have a significant public interest benefit then the idea might merit, at the very least, further discussion.

A proposal that might be more politically attractive is that fines imposed on publishers and broadcasters by their regulatory or self-regulatory bodies for breaching codes of conduct could be used for an investigative journalism fund which individual journalists and media organisations could apply to.

This would have some merit, and if we consider that some of the €200,000 fine imposed on RTÉ by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland for the Prime Time Investigates programme might have been used to support the kind of work that the new Mary Raftery Journalism Fund is seeking to support, some real public good might have been wrested from that sad episode.

The Press Council of Ireland does not impose fines and it will be interesting to see whether a new system of press regulation in the UK seeks to so do. One potential downside of course is that we could have the “good” journalists hoping the “bad” journalists would be really really bad, so they could get lots more money to do the good journalism.

One could also imagine the accountancy headaches this proposal might pose in some large newspaper or media stables, with parcels of money being constantly passed over and back from one side the other.

The UK report also noted the successful growth of free-standing philanthropic institutions dedicated to investigative journalism. The ProPublica Institute in New York was singled out for attention, as was the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in the UK. Both have done very impressive work to date.

We all know what happened to a similar venture, the Centre for Public Inquiry, that was started by Frank Connolly with the support of Atlantic Philanthropies some years ago. Frank Connolly, a former colleague of mine from the Sunday Business Post, was also a journalist who did groundbreaking work in this State.

I would hope this new initiative – the launch of the fund in Mary Raftery’s name – might prompt a re-engagement around the idea of the creation of a similar free-standing entity.

John Mair, a senior lecturer in broadcast journalism at Coventry University noted that “investigative journalists can be quite difficult people. They are good journalists, they are accurate, but they have two or three qualities that make them stand out. They have a sense of mischief. They like to cause mischief and they are also bloody determined . . . You will not put them off the scent”. Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger simply said: “Investigative reporters’ brains are wired differently.”

Investigative journalism, of the kind practised by Mary Raftery and those who collaborated in her work, should not be easily or quickly done and should encounter some difficulty in finding a home. This initiative can be a trailblazer, a signifier of excellence, a raiser of standards and most of all a profound tribute to the memory of Mary Raftery.


Emily O’Reilly is Ombudsman. This article is an edited version of her speech at the launch on Wednesday of the Mary Raftery Journalism Fund. The €120,000 fund to promote investigative journalism and commemorate the work of the late Mary Raftery is sponsored for the next 12 months by The One Foundation

maryrafteryfund.ie


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Journalism fund to mark work of late Mary Raftery

 

 

FIONA GARTLAND

A €120,000 fund to promote investigative journalism and commemorate the work of the late Mary Raftery was launched yesterday in Dublin.

The Mary Raftery Journalism Fund, sponsored for the next 12 months by philanthropic organisation The One Foundation, was initiated by the family and friends of Raftery, who died in January this year.

The journalist, who worked in broadcasting for RTÉ and wrote for The Irish Times, was best known for her work on the institutional and clerical abuse of children and on the women of the Magdalene laundries.

Speaking at the launch, Ombudsman for Children Emily O’Reilly said investigative journalism was an expensive commodity but vital “for the holding of the State and of its institutions to account”.

“Nothing represents the truth of that more than the journalism of Mary Raftery,” she said. The fund would be “a trailblazer, a signifier of excellence” and “a raiser of standards”, she said, but “more than anything” it would also be “a fitting and profound tribute” to the memory of Raftery.

The new fund will provide individual applicants with up to €18,000 to carry out investigative work in the areas of mental health, migrant issues and children’s rights. Up to €40,000 will be available for allocation in each of three rounds of funding. The first round, on the theme of mental health, will close on November 16th.

Applications will be assessed by a panel chaired by journalist Olivia O’Leary. Other members of the panel are author Colm Tóibín, former editor of The Irish Times Conor Brady, Dr Mary Corcoran, professor of sociology at NUI Maynooth and Sheila Ahern, researcher and former colleague of Ms Raftery.

Ms Raftery’s husband, David Waddell, said her friends and family were very pleased with the set-up of the fund. Mary Norris, who was interviewed by Raftery for her book Suffer the Little Children and documentary States of Fear, said more journalists such as Raftery were needed to “speak the truth”.Details of the fund are available at maryrafteryfund.ie


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FG's Doherty calls for Government apology to Magdalene survivors

 

MICHAEL O'REGAN

Thu, Sep 27, 2012

FINE GAEL backbencher Regina Doherty has called for an immediate Government apology to the survivors of the Magdalene laundries.

Ms Doherty said she wanted to acknowledge the steps the Government had taken and expressed admiration for the interdepartmental committee investigating the matter chaired by Senator Martin McAleese.

“We are certainly not calling for it to stop; we want it speeded up,” she added.

“However, to me it is clear that there is already enough evidence of State involvement in the Magdalene laundries for the Government to issue an apology.”

Ms Doherty was speaking during the resumed debate on the Sinn Féin private members’ motion calling for an apology, pensions and a helpline for survivors.

A Government amendment acknowledging the need for compassion but adding that it would be wrong for the committee to conclude its work without examining additional material before it, was passed by 75 votes 43.

Minister of State for Justice Kathleen Lynch told the Dáil on Tuesday night that the committee’s final report would be published before the end of the year at the latest.

Joe O’Reilly (FG) said that while he commended Sinn Féin for bringing forward the motion, he would appeal to the party to refrain from pre-empting the committee’s final report and accept the Government amendment.

Mr O’Reilly said that following the committee’s report, a truth and reconciliation forum should be established to deal with the Magdalene story. “It is a sordid part of our history,” he added. “We cannot romanticise our past and ignore it.”

Richard Boyd Barrett (People Before Profit) said the abuse and enslavement of women in the Magdalene laundries was “a black stain” on the State’s history.

“It is part of a landscape of shame that includes the industrial schools, the Bethany homes and widespread abuse of children by the church,” he added. “The State is ultimately responsible for this.”

Mr Boyd Barrett said the role of the religious orders and the Catholic Church hierarchy was beyond question in the way they used their “twisted notions of morality” to justify visiting appalling suffering, abuse and exploitation on thousands of women.

“That is well known and beyond question, but it is the State that is ultimately responsible for the welfare of every citizen,” he added.

Clare Daly (ULA) said it was not good enough for the State to say to wait and that the issue would be dealt with this year. “These people have already waited a lifetime,” she added. “Many of them cannot wait any more.”

Ms Daly said the United Nations commission on torture had said it should have been dealt with more than three months ago. “This is an ageing population, they deserve an apology now, they deserve redress now,” she added.

© 2012 The Irish Times


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Magdalene survivors still held hostage to politics


September 26th, 1964

JAMES M SMITH

OPINION: Dáil Éireann will vote this evening on a motion addressing the Magdalene laundries. Two facts are fundamental to the debate preceding it.

First is the indisputable fact that three years after Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) circulated an apology and redress scheme for survivors of the laundries, 22 months after the Irish Human Rights Commission called for a statutory inquiry into alleged abuses and provision of redress in appropriate cases, and 15 months after the UN Committee Against Torture obliged the State to ensure that within one year survivors obtained redress, the women at the centre of this debate find themselves in exactly the same position as when this all started.

No apology, no pension, no lost wages, no redress and no acknowledgement that what happened to them was wrong. A population of Irish women, aging and elderly, living at home and abroad, many vulnerable and marginalised, is left waiting as time slips by.

Second is that there is overwhelming evidence of State involvement in the Magdalene laundries – sending women to the institutions and ensuring they stayed there; direct and indirect financial support; and failing to regulate the commercial laundries and thereby prevent human rights violations.

The pending final report on the issue by an interdepartmental committee will offer an even more complete picture of State involvement. But, in the meantime, JFM’s principal submission to the committee, a redacted copy of which every member of the Oireachtas received last week, and which was supported by 795 pages of survivor testimony and 3,707 pages of archival and legislative documentation, constitutes incontrovertible evidence of significant State involvement.

JFM is a non-political organisation but it was consulted on the wording of the Sinn Féin Dáil motion, which calls on the Government to act now to address the women’s immediate needs. Specifically, the motion calls for the setting up of a survivor helpline and outreach service. In addition, it asks the Government to commit now to ensuring that survivors can access pensions for the years they spent working unpaid in the laundries.

The motion acknowledges the important work in this area of Senator Martin McAleese, the chairman of the interdepartmental committee, and it recognises that the four religious congregations in question have rights too. But time is of the essence here as it is the commodity survivors can ill afford.

The Government statement on the Magdalene laundries (June 15th, 2011) announced a twin-track investigation, namely (a) the formation of the interdepartmental committee, and (b) the ministerial track (for want of a better title).

Survivors and representative groups, and the religious congregations, are co-operating with the departmental committee.

JFM has met the committee and made numerous submissions. We may have reservations regarding the committee process as a vehicle for investigation, for example the lack of terms of reference, lack of statutory powers, and questions about transparency, but no one questions Martin McAleese’s commitment to bringing this work to completion. Our concern, once again, is time.

The committee’s interim report (October 2011) anticipated a final report by “mid-2012”. Then it was due by the end of the summer. Now it will appear no later than the end of the year. These delays may not seem unreasonable but they take on added significance given Minister for Justice Alan Shatter’s insistence that the publication of the final report alone will determine Government action on an apology and redress.

Consequently, survivors’ immediate needs are held hostage to the political process.

The ministerial track, too, is not serving its intended purpose. Alan Shatter has refused repeatedly to discuss “the putting in place of a restorative and reconciliation process and the structure that might be utilised to facilitate such a process”.

JFM is unaware of discussions that address what such a process might look like or what structure will facilitate it. In August 2011, the Minster for Justice’s office asked JFM to develop and resubmit the group’s earlier proposal for a redress and restorative justice scheme. This we did on October 14th, 2011. We have not heard from the Minister since.

JFM has expressed concern that the ministerial track is dependent on and consecutive to the publication of the final report. TDs have asked parliamentary questions seeking progress reports with respect to redress. Alan Shatter’s response has become a refrain (repeated on at least six occasions), a typical comment being: “I am not going to pre-empt the work of the interdepartmental committee by making decisions on such matters as reparation before I receive the final report.”

This is in stark contrast to the Minister’s insistence in December 2009, when in opposition, that there was “absolutely irrefutable evidence” of State complicity in the Magdalene laundries.

JFM wrote to the Minister on February 29th, 2012, asking him to establish a threshold for State involvement short of the committee’s final report so as to enable discussions on an apology and redress to begin, but our pleas for a concurrent approach involving both tracks of the government process went unheeded.

This means even more time will elapse. Work that could be done now will wait until the report is published and the Government decides on a course of action. No doubt additional discussions and planning will then be required and somewhere down the line, perhaps, survivors’ needs might be met. The risk is that survivors may not live that long.

Supporting the Dáil motion is the moral and ethical thing to do. Survivors of Ireland’s Magdalene laundries have already waited too long for State, Church and society to say: “We were wrong, and you were wronged, and for that we are sorry.”

They have, moreover, experienced government inaction as tantamount to a deliberate policy of “deny ’til they die.” Will tonight’s vote tell them that State policy has become “delay ’til they die”?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

James M Smith is an associate professor in the English department and Irish Studies programme at Boston College. He is the author of Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries and the Nation’s Architecture of Containment (2007) and serves on JFM’s advisory committee.
 


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Magdalene Laundries motion 'premature'

 

By Claire O’Sullivan

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Government has described as "premature" a Sinn Féin Dáil motion seeking an apology from the State to the women of the Magdalene Laundries.

Kathleen Lynch, junior minister at the Department of Health, said the Government "would not make any assertions" in advance of the publication of Senator Martin McAleese’s inter- departmental report into state complicity at the laundries.

Ms Lynch, who staunchly supported the Justice for Magdalene’s campaign while in opposition, said "the facts remain undetermined" as both sides of the Magdalene story had never been told in court or in a tribunal of inquiry.

Advocacy groups for the Magdalene survivors and the religious orders are taking part in Mr McAleese’s investigation. Its final report is due to be published by the end of the year.

Its publication date was postponed earlier this month as "significant levels of new documentation is still being identified", said Ms Lynch.

Sinn Féin’s private member’s motion — seeking an apology to victims, access to pensions for the women and redress — was supported by Fianna Fáil and up to 17 independent TDs.

Jonathan O’Brien, Sinn Féin’s education spokesman, said: "The Government’s rejection of this motion is a travesty."


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Statutory Fund - Applications to the Board

The Minister is seeking expressions of interest from persons interested in becoming members of the Statutory Fund Board. The selection process will cover the 9 positions including the 4 positions for former residents of residential institutions. The recruitment process was...
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Dark stain of Irish gulag system not yet addressed

 


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Sinn Féin tables private members' motion on Magdalene Laundries

September 22, 2012 Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has announced that her party will use its private members time in the Dáil next week to move a motion on the abuses that took place in the...
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Taoiseach declines to comment after meeting Pope Benedict at Castel Gandolofo

Taoiseach Enda Kenny declined to comment following his meeting with Pope Benedict at his residence at Castel Gandolfo near Rome Enda Kenny met with the Pontiff at Castel Gandolofo Vatican rejects Govt criticism after Cloyne A Government spokesperson said...
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Kenny: Church aware of hurt it caused

Kenny: Church aware of hurt it caused

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Catholic Church understands the need to deal fully with the scars of child abuse since his criticism of the Vatican, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said ahead of his meeting today with the Pope.

This will be the first time he speaks to Pope Benedict XVI since he told the Dáil that the Vatican was dominated by "dysfunction, disconnection, elitism", and that narcissism dominated "the culture of the Vatican to this day".

"The rape and torture of children were downplayed or managed to uphold instead the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and reputation," he told the Dáil in July last year,accusing Rome of trying to bury the issue of child abuse to protect the institution of the Church.

Far from feeling uncomfortable when he meets the Pope today, Mr Kenny said he believed his criticism had been beneficial for the Church and had brought about a new sense of reality.

Mr Kenny said the Government would be very welcoming if the Pope were to visit Ireland.

"From my dealings with the Church authorities since then, there has been a realism and understanding that the scars of the past have to be dealt with and dealt with fully," he said.

It had helped to put in place foundations for thefuture that demonstrate the values that we have for our country and for our people, said Mr Kenny.

This was reflected in his decision to appoint a children’s minister to organise a referendum on children’s rights, he said.

Mr Kenny is one of a group of 20 national leaders and politicians who has an audience with the Pope in Castel Gandolfo today following a meeting of the Centrist Democratic International leaders meeting in Rome. Fine Gael is a member of CDI.

There will be no opportunity for any in-depth conversation during the meeting, Mr Kenny said. It will be little more than shaking hands.

Mr Kenny’s speech to the Dáil followed the publication of the report into the handling of child abuse cases by the Diocese of Cloyne. The report based much of its accusations on a 1997 letter from the Holy See’s representative in Ireland in which he said he had serious reservations about the Church’s new policy requiring bishops to report abuse to gardaí.

The Cloyne report said the letter "effectively gave individual Irish bishops the freedom to ignore the procedures they had agreed", supporting instead those who disagreed with official Church policy.

The Vatican furiously described the criticisms as "unfounded" in its response, which arrived in September and which the Government described as "technical and legalistic".

The Vatican contradicted Mr Kenny’s accusations and said that at "no stage did it seek to interfere with the Irish civil law or impede the civil authority in the exercise of its duties".

Asked if he would invite the Pope to Ireland, the Taoiseach said it was a matter for the Irish Church authorities but if he were inv-ited, "the Government will be fully supportive and reflect his stature and his position."


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Still searching for her mother after decades of not knowing

 

 

MARK HENNESSY, London Editor, at the London Irish Centre

Four in 10 of those held in Irish institutions left for Britain. A support service is trying to help

ANN LUNDY, now 67, looks younger than her years. Like many others who spent their childhoods in mother and baby homes run by nuns, she travelled yesterday to the London Irish Centre in Camden in north London.

Some have been making the journey every Thursday for years for events organised by the London Irish Survivors’ Outreach Service.

Some come for help, some for advice about education, and some just to talk.

Born in the Roscommon mother and baby home in 1945, Lundy spent five years there after her mother Julia had left for Birmingham. “I remember being in a cot on my own for what seemed an awful long time.” By seven, she was in St Joseph’s convent in Summerhill, Athlone: “We were cared for in a fashion, but never loved,” she said. Medical standards improved after a nun returned from missionary work. The food did not, however, leaving many under-nourished.

The names of her mother and father, who had been married but whose relationship was in trouble before Ann’s birth, were written on her Confirmation declaration: “I got quite excited; I had never known that before,” she says.

By 15, she was free, but alone. Still seeking answers, she went back to Roscommon. The nuns did not want to tell her anything, before finally relenting: “They told me that my grandmother lived down the road.

“My grandmother was on the doorstep when I got down there. She recognised me from my mother. She nearly fainted. She had to be carried into the house. She just told me that my mother was wild,” says Ann.

Three years later, she moved to England. “Eventually, I found that an aunt lived in Kensal Green – Kathleen. We just buried her last week. She was fantastic. She never turned me away; I got married from her house.

“I used to go to her house every Sunday for lunch. She was the nearest thing to a mother that I ever had,” says Ann. Her aunt was not able to tell her where her mother was to be found, and decades on she has failed to track her down.

“We have the birth certificate, but there is no death certificate. She may have got married again and changed her name,” says Ann’s friend, Phyllis Morgan, who now runs the Irish Survivors’ Advice and Support Service.

On her deathbed, her grandmother told Ann she had had two brothers, but said nothing more. Neighbours “closed the door” in her face when she asked for information. Years passed before she discovered that one had died at just three months, the second aged just 10.

For years, Phyllis Morgan has worked for British-based Irish survivors. Like them, she was born in a mother and baby home, in her case St Patrick’s on the Navan Road in Dublin, after her pregnant Waterford mother, Nellie Wall, was “thrown out” by her family.

“ was in the sewing room as a punishment. She might have seen me once a week. She was not allowed to come and feed me. That was done by the staff that were there,” Phyllis tells The Irish Times.

Unlike Ann, Phyllis was beaten during her time in St Philomena’s, Stillorgan: “There were appalling beatings all of the time in St Philomena’s – if you weren’t being beaten then you saw others being beaten.

“They used hurleys, they used to shave off the curve. My God, did that hurt. It happened on a weekly basis – half the time you hadn’t a clue why you were being beaten. The nun could just have been in a bad mood.

“You lived in fear all of the time. It was run by the Daughters of Charity. If you didn’t put out your hand then you got hit on the elbow to make sure that you did put out your hand the next time you were told to.”

Yesterday’s open day at the London Irish Centre was part of efforts to reach deep into the Irish community, given that four in 10 of those held in institutions in the Republic left for Britain, often at the first available opportunity.

“Very few in the agencies here are aware of the severity of abuse suffered, so even those presenting with the most obvious issues may not receive the levels of sensitivity can provide,” says the centre’s director of welfare, Jeff Moore.

Many struggle with problems “but the extraordinary thing is how resilient so many of them are, how so many have built good lives for themselves and their families. They are absolutely inspirational,” he says.

However, they rarely tell more of their stories than they need to. Walking up the steps to the centre yesterday, Ann Lundy meets the husband of her best friend of 35 years.

“What are you doing here?” he asks. He too, it emerges, had spent time in institutions.

Neither had ever mentioned it.


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Magdalene group seeks action on redress

 

PATSY McGARRY, Religious Affairs Correspondent

Fri, Sep 21, 2012

THE JUSTICE for Magdalenes (JFM) group has demanded “Government action for Magdalene survivors immediately”.

This week every TD and Senator will receive a redacted copy of JFM’s recent principal submission to the Inter-Departmental Committee investigating State involvement with the Magdalene laundries. “We do so with survivors’ consent and identities have been protected,” it said yesterday.

The State Involvement with the Magdalene Laundries document “offers overwhelming and irrefutable evidence of State complicity in the abuses experienced by young girls and women in these institutions,” it said.

The group’s original submission was supported by 795 pages of newly gathered survivor testimony, which was consistent with the 3,707 pages of archival evidence and legislative documentation also provided to the committee by JFM.

The decision to provide this redacted document to TDs and Senators followed the announcement last week by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter that the committee’s final report may not now appear until the end of this year.

“The final report was to be published by ‘mid-2012’ and then no later than this month,” said JFM.

It was “gravely concerned by this additional delay and calls on the Government to issue an immediate apology and to initiate meaningful discussions towards providing redress and restorative justice to all survivors”.

It noted that “the UN Committee Against Torture recommendation (June 2011) called on the State to ensure that survivors obtain redress within one year. The State has failed to do so. Meanwhile, a population of ageing and elderly women is left waiting.”

It said Mr Shatter had refused to discuss an apology or redress until after publication of the committee’s report. “JFM has, in turn, repeatedly asked Mr Shatter to set a threshold for State involvement short of the final report so that survivors can access entitlements without further delay, eg, statutory pensions and lost wages.”

The group urged all Oireachtas members to read the redacted document and called on them to press Mr Shatter to take action within the Dáil’s autumn session.

JFM has also written to Minister of State for Equality Kathleen Lynch asking that she “make available a dedicated helpline and outreach service to laundry survivors as soon as possible”.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Margaret McGuckin, co-founder of Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse (Savia) in Northern Ireland has been awarded the UK’s 2012 Social and Economic Justice Campaigner Award.

It follows Savia’s success in persuading the Northern Ireland Executive to establish an inquiry into institutional abuse there.

© 2012 The Irish Times

Magdalene group seeks action on redress

PATSY McGARRY, Religious Affairs Correspondent

Fri, Sep 21, 2012

THE JUSTICE for Magdalenes (JFM) group has demanded “Government action for Magdalene survivors immediately”.

This week every TD and Senator will receive a redacted copy of JFM’s recent principal submission to the Inter-Departmental Committee investigating State involvement with the Magdalene laundries. “We do so with survivors’ consent and identities have been protected,” it said yesterday.

The State Involvement with the Magdalene Laundries document “offers overwhelming and irrefutable evidence of State complicity in the abuses experienced by young girls and women in these institutions,” it said.

The group’s original submission was supported by 795 pages of newly gathered survivor testimony, which was consistent with the 3,707 pages of archival evidence and legislative documentation also provided to the committee by JFM.

The decision to provide this redacted document to TDs and Senators followed the announcement last week by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter that the committee’s final report may not now appear until the end of this year.

“The final report was to be published by ‘mid-2012’ and then no later than this month,” said JFM.

It was “gravely concerned by this additional delay and calls on the Government to issue an immediate apology and to initiate meaningful discussions towards providing redress and restorative justice to all survivors”.

It noted that “the UN Committee Against Torture recommendation (June 2011) called on the State to ensure that survivors obtain redress within one year. The State has failed to do so. Meanwhile, a population of ageing and elderly women is left waiting.”

It said Mr Shatter had refused to discuss an apology or redress until after publication of the committee’s report. “JFM has, in turn, repeatedly asked Mr Shatter to set a threshold for State involvement short of the final report so that survivors can access entitlements without further delay, eg, statutory pensions and lost wages.”

The group urged all Oireachtas members to read the redacted document and called on them to press Mr Shatter to take action within the Dáil’s autumn session.

JFM has also written to Minister of State for Equality Kathleen Lynch asking that she “make available a dedicated helpline and outreach service to laundry survivors as soon as possible”.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Margaret McGuckin, co-founder of Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse (Savia) in Northern Ireland has been awarded the UK’s 2012 Social and Economic Justice Campaigner Award.

It follows Savia’s success in persuading the Northern Ireland Executive to establish an inquiry into institutional abuse there.

© 2012 The Irish Times


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Message of Bethany abuse finally getting through

 

Friday, September 21, 2012

It is good to see that some reporters and media are starting ‘to get it’ in relation to the treatment of non-Catholics in Ireland today.

It is sad that Victoria White (Opinion, Sept 13) has to point out that it is easier for RTE and other national media to go outside Ireland, rather than deal with the Irish problem of treating the minority Protestant people differently to the majority. Indeed, they do not even realise that they are even doing this.

There is a more important point that is being missed by all reporters in Ireland today.

It is the extraordinary narrative with regard to the Bethany survivors and the 219 children dumped in unmarked graves in Mount Jerome. It should also be noted that on Aug 28, as survivors, we stood by the barren graves of these children, giving respect to the memory of their lives. On that day, as we remembered this horrific period of Irish history, it was very sad and shameful that not even one Protestant church leader (or their associates), was there to offer spiritual or moral support to survivors past and present, or for our just cause.

Ironically, the story of Bethany and that of survivors from other Protestant institutions, is bringing together people from all religious persuasions who no longer want this grotesque history, past and present, to be ignored in their name, irrespective of the lack of leadership from our church leaders.

Derek Leinster
Chairman of the Bethany Survivors Group
Rugby
UK


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Carefully crafted children's rights text disarms critics

 

 

CAROL COULTER

ANALYSIS: THE PROPOSED children’s rights amendment, published yesterday, has been widely welcomed and seems likely to receive the support of all political parties. Even those who expressed reservations about the need for such an amendment have been muted so far. But these reservations could well resurface.

In the run-up to the publication of the text questions were raised as to whether the amendment was necessary at all, given that the Constitution permits the State, in exceptional cases, to endeavour to take the place of the parents where they fail in their duty towards their child.

A host of reports over the past 20 years recommended constitutional change. The most recent of these was the report on the Roscommon incest and abuse case, where both married parents of a large family had sexually abused, assaulted and neglected their children over more than a decade.

When the local health board sought to have the children taken into the care of close relatives who wanted to care for them, the mother went to the High Court and secured an order preventing it. For ill-explained reasons, the health board backed off and the children remained with their abusers for many more years.

While the letter of the law permitted the health board to act decisively in relation to these children, the absence of specific rights for children weakened its effectiveness. The constitutional guidance given to the judge gave priority to the marital family. The mother was able to obtain an order without the children having any voice in court and without their rights to a safe environment being invoked.

This will be changed by the amendment, which gives explicit recognition to the “natural and imprescriptible” rights of children, though these are not defined. It will fall to the courts to define them in specific cases. They are likely to include many of the rights mentioned in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the child’s right to life and nurture, to be cared for by his or her family, to receive care where that is not possible, to health, education and leisure, not to suffer violence or exploitation, and to have his or her views heard.

The proposed amendment also provides for the adoption of the children of married parents, and the Bill published with it makes explicit provision for this when the child has been in long-term foster care, has not had contact with his or her natural parents for at least three years, and where this is likely to continue. Critics have raised the spectre of the forcible removal of children from their families for trivial reasons and their adoption without parental consent, evoking the law in the UK where the taking of children into care can be the first step in their adoption.

The proposed amendment, combined with the draft Adoption Bill, provides for a much more nuanced approach. Children who have in effect been abandoned by their families and are in foster care may be adopted. Children of married parents can voluntarily be put up for adoption, following appropriate counselling and obtaining informed consent.

If the child has been placed for adoption and the consent is not forthcoming, it may be dispensed with. The court must consider the rights of all parties and give priority to the best interests of the child, but the adoption must be a “proportionate” response to the needs of the child.

So the fear of the State intervening in functioning families and seizing their children appears ill-founded. The amendment does, however, rebalance parental and children’s rights to ensure that the problems of children in seriously dysfunctional families can be addressed and the marital status of the parents cannot be an obstacle to this.

It is an indisputable fact that, while the overwhelming majority of children are lovingly cared for by their families, for a minority their family is a very dangerous place to be and can be the site for emotional, sexual and physical abuse and grievous neglect.

Such abuse is no respecter of marital status. Some of the most horrendous cases of abuse – and even child murder – that have come to light have involved the children of married parents. The Kilkenny incest case, the Kelly Fitzgerald case, the McColgan sexual abuse case, the Monageer case and the Roscommon incest and rape case all involved married couples and their children.

The passing of this amendment will not mean that the status of the marital family is undermined. The Minister, along with her predecessor, Barry Andrews, and the all-party committee, was careful not to seek to amend article 41 of the Constitution, which deals with the family. Article 42, which is to be amended, deals with education. So the affirmation of the status of the family based on marriage remains intact.

This means the courts will still have to carry out a balancing exercise if the rights of the child and the rights of the marital family are seen to conflict. It does not mean that children’s rights, however defined, trump the rights of the family if there is a conflict but that the courts have to have regard to the rights and the best interests of children, as well as the constitutional rights of the family.

However, these considerations apply only where there are court proceedings, either involving the State in care proceedings, or private cases concerning adoption, custody or access issues. The amendment does not oblige the State to make the best interests of the child the paramount consideration. This was also absent from the previous government’s wording.

This means that the best interests of the child need not prevail in actions taken by government departments: for example, in the placing of the asylum seekers’ children in direct provision accommodation, condemned as unsuitable by many NGOs, or the widely criticised practice of placing children with mental health problems in adult psychiatric wards, or the provision – or lack of provision – for the education of children with special needs. There is no doubt that the proposal of such far-reaching provisions would have met with political and administrative resistance.

Frances Fitzgerald has produced a carefully crafted amendment that has disarmed most of her potential critics and will strengthen the right of children to protection and care. It won’t answer all the problems that face vulnerable children, but it could not have been expected to.


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The State recognises and affirms the natural and imprescriptible rights of all children

 

Thu, Sep 20, 2012

By CAROL COULTER , Legal Affairs Editor

New Article 42A.1: 1

“The State recognises and affirms the natural and imprescriptible rights of all children and shall, as far as practicable, by its laws protect and vindicate those rights.”

This is a specific statement that all children have rights. Natural and imprescriptible rights are those that arise from childrens very existence; the rights are not conveyed by law and cannot be removed by law. These rights are not defined and it will fall to the courts to put flesh on the bare words, but they are likely to be guided by the rights in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. These include the right to life and to grow and develop; the right to an identity and to a family; the right to be cared for by their parents and to care from the State if their parents fail to care for them; the right to express their views and to have their views taken into consideration; the right to health and education; and the right to be protected from child labour and violence.

New Article 42A.2.1:

“In exceptional cases, where the parents, regardless of their marital status, fail in their duty towards their children to such extent that the safety or welfare of any of their children is likely to be prejudicially affected, the State as guardian of the common good shall, by proportionate means as provided by law, endeavour to supply the place of the parents, but always with due regard for the natural and imprescriptible rights of the child.”

This describes the nitty-gritty of the issue, and replaces the existing article 42.5. The new wording inserts the phrase “regardless of their marital status”. It removes the distinction that exists under the existing Constitution between the children of married and unmarried parents. A higher threshold exists for the removal of children of married parents at the moment, and it has been possible for married parents, as they did in the Roscommon abuse case, to invoke their parental rights to prevent their children being taken into care.

Articles 42A.2.2

“Provision shall be made by law for the adoption of any child where the parents have failed for such a period of time as may be prescribed by law in their duty towards the child and where the best interests of the child so require.”

...and 42.A.3

“Provision shall be made by law for the voluntary placement for adoption and the adoption of any child.”

These articles provide for the adoption of children who have been effectively abandoned by their parents and for the voluntary placement of children for adoption, regardless of the marital status of the parents.

Under the existing Constitution only the children of unmarried parents can be adopted, unless it can be proved that the married parents have abandoned their child and this abandonment will continue until the child is 18. This has had the effect of leaving many hundreds of children in long-term foster case with no contact with their birth families and no prospect of becoming an integral part of their foster families.

Article 42A.4.1

“Provision shall be made by law that in the resolution of all proceedings -

(i) brought by the State, as guardian of the common good, for the purpose of preventing the safety and welfare of any child from being prejudicially affected, or

(ii) concerning the adoption, guardianship or custody of, or access to, any child, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.”

This provides that the “best interests of the child” shall be the paramount consideration in all court proceedings brought by the State or private legal proceedings relating to adoption, guardianship, custody or access. It means, for example, that where parental rights are invoked in adoption proceedings the court will be obliged to consider what is best for the child ahead of what the parents want. Equally, the childs interests and welfare will be to the fore in disputes between separating or divorcing couples. It should be superfluous to have such a clause relating to proceedings brought by the State but sadly this has not always been the case.

Article 42A.4.2

“Provision shall be made by law for securing, as far as practicable, that in all proceedings referred to in subsection 1° of this section in respect of any child who is capable of forming his or her own views, the views of the child shall be ascertained and given due weight having regard to the age and maturity of the child.”

This provides that, depending on the age and maturity of the child, his or her views must be taken into account in all proceedings involving State care, adoption, custody and access.

© 2012 The Irish Times


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What the wording means


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Culture of secrecy

Independent.ie

 

By Colm Kelpie
Thursday September 06 2012

SERIAL abusers went undetected and unchecked with one religious congregation maintaining a "culture of secrecy", audits of three orders found.

It is the first time that religious congregations have been audited by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSC), with some of the most scathing criticisms reserved for the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.

The Catholic Church's child protection watchdog focused on three congregations -- the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC); the Irish Province of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (the Spiritans) and the Dominican Friars.

The NBSC stated that its leadership not only failed to pass allegations to the gardai and health chiefs, but also maintained an air of secrecy within their own community.

"It is difficult to express adequately the failure of this society (MSC) to effectively protect vulnerable children," the audit said.

"In the assessment of the NBSC, it could have been prevented.

"This worked very much in favour of those who had caused harm to children and wanted to continue to prey upon them."

The audit found the practice to be "deeply flawed".

Seventeen alleged perpetrators are known to the society, nine of whom made admissions to varying degrees. One has since died and three others have left. None remain in ministry. Six of those worked within a boarding school, with three there for several years.

The audit said the number of victims is not known but is growing.

The audit found from an initial reading of the society's files that one priest had made admissions and named a number of boys he had harmed, but this were never passed to the gardai.

The full extent of this knowledge was not given to gardai before August last year.

It also pointed out that the response of the society to victims was "uncaring and aggressive", with one being threatened with legal action.

It was noted in files that the abuse caused victims to self harm and in one case, where a victim took his own life, it was claimed abuse was a contributory factor if not the main cause.

Fr Joseph McGee, MSC Provincial, said they "deeply regret" their failures.

Some 142 allegations have been made to gardai involving 47 members of the Spiritans since January 1975.

Some 290 Spiritans belong to Irish province -- 95 are aboard, 45 are in ministry in Ireland and 150 are retired.

Inexcusable

"The case files make very sad reading. There is evidence that there were serial abusers who worked in school communities in Ireland," the audit found."

The audit into the Spiritans found that in one case a now deceased priest named only as 'Father A' abused 28 children between 1968 and 1993, but he was not removed from ministry until 1996.

Outgoing Spiritans Provincial Fr Brian Starken said what happened to the victims was "inexcusable".

"As a religious Congregation we are filled with shame but our shame cannot compare with the immense suffering and hurt experienced by victims."

The watchdog found 52 allegations have been reported to the gardai and the Health Service Executive concerning the Dominicans since January 1975. Some 15 friars are now dead, four are out of ministry but still in the order and two have been convicted

- Colm Kelpie


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Safeguarding children

 

Thu, Sep 06, 2012

VICTIMS OF clerical sex abuse could be forgiven for feeling revulsion and rage over the manner in which members of the Catholic hierarchy and religious congregations delayed the implementation of procedures and guidelines designed to protect children and to report criminal behaviour to the Garda Síochána. The latest review by the National Board for Safeguarding Children concludes that while progress has been made on these issues, full compliance is some way off.

The importance of the work being done by the board was reflected by the immediate acceptance of its criticisms and recommendations by the four dioceses and the three religious congregations concerned. The fact that it took a review by this church-appointed body to ensure child protection guidelines are implemented is, however, a cause for concern. It is clear that remnants of a culture involving denial, cover-up and the administrative transfers of offenders still persist.

As on previous occasions, outpourings of remorse and apologies to victims have followed these reports. They deal with offences going back to 1975. In some dioceses, lessons have been learned and strict procedures introduced. In others, progress has been slow and achieved reluctantly.

There was little change from traditional responses to abuse within the three religious congregations reviewed and the inspectors recorded their shock and dismay. In one congregation it found “a complete disregard for victims”; in another, there was no awareness of the impact of child sexual abuse. All three have offered a new approach and a commitment to change.

Bishop of Clonfert John Kirby defended his handling of such matters on the grounds that he knew nothing about abuse and “it wasn’t an issue in the church in the 1990s”. Not so. As far back as 1987, the hierarchy took out insurance against anticipated legal actions and established a £10 million compensation fund. The review found a higher incidence of abuse allegations involving religious congregations than within the four dioceses. There is no comfort to be found there. On the basis of earlier figures, it would appear the incidence of priests abusing children follows a pretty regular and terrible pattern across all dioceses. Four years ago, the Murphy report criticised the manner in which the Garda processed complaints against clerics in Dublin. These documents show that allegations were made against 18 priests in Limerick - eight subsequently left the ministry - but there was not a single criminal conviction. Something is wrong there.

The National Board for Safeguarding Children has completed investigations into how 10 dioceses and three religious congregations have responded to allegations of child abuse and implemented best practice guidelines. It can conduct such reviews only if invited to do so. Sixteen dioceses and 159 religious orders remain to be assessed. Many of those may have blameless records and high standards of child protection. But, on the basis of what has been revealed so far, further distressing revelations are likely.

© 2012 The Irish Times


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Spiritans serial abuse unchecked for decades


 

Serial abuse by Spiritans unchecked for decades

MARY CAROLAN

Thu, Sep 06, 2012

HOLY GHOSTS: A REVIEW of child safeguarding practices in the Holy Ghost congregation has found “unacceptable failures” over decades to protect children from 47 alleged abusing priests in its schools here.

The Catholic Church’s child protection watchdog, the National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC), also expressed “grave concerns” that an abuser removed from ministry in 1995 was on an internet forum just last year. Another, unknown to the congregation leaders, was until recently engaged in temporary ministry despite not having the order’s required clearance document.

These cases raised issues about the effectiveness of monitoring in the congregation, the review said.

The Spiritans run several well-known schools in Ireland. Four are in Dublin – Blackrock College, St Mary’s College, Templeogue College and St Michael’s College. A fifth, Rockwell College, is in Co Tipperary.

While recent “commendable” initiatives by the current provincial leaders showed “a serious approach” to accepting responsibility for past failures and to ensuring the future safety of children, the board said more measures were required and made 16 recommendations in that regard.

It said the recent establishment of a monitoring panel whose members include a former garda was “welcome and necessary” but must be reviewed annually.

A total of 142 allegations of abuse by Holy Ghost or Spiritan priests were made between 1975 and 1994, but suspected abusers were often moved, within Ireland or abroad, provoking concern that other victims had yet to come forward here or in countries such as the US, Canada and Sierra Leone, the review noted.

The order’s files made “very sad reading”, it said. There were “unacceptable failures” to prevent abuse that children “could have been spared if action was taken” and the congregation’s current leadership had to carry the responsibility for those past failures.

One “prolific abuser”, who abused children over 13 years and was removed from ministry in 1995, was found on an internet forum in 2011. Despite concerns raised about the priest within three years of the abuse starting, he continued to abuse children for a further 10 years.

Another priest who abused 28 children between 1968 and 1993 was removed from ministry only in 1996. He has since died.

Files provided to the NBSC by the Spiritans showed serial abusers in schools “went undetected and unchecked, giving them unmonitored access to children during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s”.

Of the 47 priests about whom allegations were made between 1975 and 1994, just eight are still alive, with three out of ministry. Three Spiritans have been convicted of abuse.

The NBSC review focused on files related to living priests and measures by the current provincial leadership to ensure a safe environment for children. It noted Spiritans no longer teach in their schools but there are some Spiritan chaplains.

Some abuse allegations were reported by Spiritan leaders from 1994 on, but those made before 1994 were not reported to the Garda or health boards for years. While a 1996 Catholic Church document required reporting of abuse, some reports were not made until four years after that. All 142 claims have been reported by now.

In 1994, a new provincial of the order with a greater awareness of abuse removed some men from ministry and contact with children, the review said.

The NBSC has recommended the provincial leaders draw up a plan to reach out to abuse victims and their families and encourage other victims to come forward.

The board also recommended setting clear guidelines for raising and managing child protection concerns and prioritising the issue when recruiting brothers and staff. The Spiritans must be vigilant and have annual audits of all its communities, it said. Canon law investigations must be reactivated on all living priests against whom claims were made, it added.

© 2012 The Irish Times

 

Serial abuse by Spiritans unchecked for decades
MARY CAROLAN
Thu, Sep 06, 2012
HOLY GHOSTS: A REVIEW of child safeguarding practices in the Holy Ghost congregation has found “unacceptable failures” over decades to protect children from 47 alleged abusing priests in its schools here.
The Catholic Church’s child protection watchdog, the National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC), also expressed “grave concerns” that an abuser removed from ministry in 1995 was on an internet forum just last year. Another, unknown to the congregation leaders, was until recently engaged in temporary ministry despite not having the order’s required clearance document.
These cases raised issues about the effectiveness of monitoring in the congregation, the review said.
The Spiritans run several well-known schools in Ireland. Four are in Dublin – Blackrock College, St Mary’s College, Templeogue College and St Michael’s College. A fifth, Rockwell College, is in Co Tipperary.
While recent “commendable” initiatives by the current provincial leaders showed “a serious approach” to accepting responsibility for past failures and to ensuring the future safety of children, the board said more measures were required and made 16 recommendations in that regard.
It said the recent establishment of a monitoring panel whose members include a former garda was “welcome and necessary” but must be reviewed annually.
A total of 142 allegations of abuse by Holy Ghost or Spiritan priests were made between 1975 and 1994, but suspected abusers were often moved, within Ireland or abroad, provoking concern that other victims had yet to come forward here or in countries such as the US, Canada and Sierra Leone, the review noted.
The order’s files made “very sad reading”, it said. There were “unacceptable failures” to prevent abuse that children “could have been spared if action was taken” and the congregation’s current leadership had to carry the responsibility for those past failures.
One “prolific abuser”, who abused children over 13 years and was removed from ministry in 1995, was found on an internet forum in 2011. Despite concerns raised about the priest within three years of the abuse starting, he continued to abuse children for a further 10 years.
Another priest who abused 28 children between 1968 and 1993 was removed from ministry only in 1996. He has since died.
Files provided to the NBSC by the Spiritans showed serial abusers in schools “went undetected and unchecked, giving them unmonitored access to children during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s”.
Of the 47 priests about whom allegations were made between 1975 and 1994, just eight are still alive, with three out of ministry. Three Spiritans have been convicted of abuse.
The NBSC review focused on files related to living priests and measures by the current provincial leadership to ensure a safe environment for children. It noted Spiritans no longer teach in their schools but there are some Spiritan chaplains.
Some abuse allegations were reported by Spiritan leaders from 1994 on, but those made before 1994 were not reported to the Garda or health boards for years. While a 1996 Catholic Church document required reporting of abuse, some reports were not made until four years after that. All 142 claims have been reported by now.
In 1994, a new provincial of the order with a greater awareness of abuse removed some men from ministry and contact with children, the review said.
The NBSC has recommended the provincial leaders draw up a plan to reach out to abuse victims and their families and encourage other victims to come forward.
The board also recommended setting clear guidelines for raising and managing child protection concerns and prioritising the issue when recruiting brothers and staff. The Spiritans must be vigilant and have annual audits of all its communities, it said. Canon law investigations must be reactivated on all living priests against whom claims were made, it added.
© 2012 The Irish Times

 

 

Spiritans unchecked for decadesSerial abuse by  

MARY CAROLAN

Thu, Sep 06, 2012

HOLY GHOSTS: A REVIEW of child safeguarding practices in the Holy Ghost congregation has found “unacceptable failures” over decades to protect children from 47 alleged abusing priests in its schools here.

The Catholic Church’s child protection watchdog, the National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC), also expressed “grave concerns” that an abuser removed from ministry in 1995 was on an internet forum just last year. Another, unknown to the congregation leaders, was until recently engaged in temporary ministry despite not having the order’s required clearance document.

These cases raised issues about the effectiveness of monitoring in the congregation, the review said.

The Spiritans run several well-known schools in Ireland. Four are in Dublin – Blackrock College, St Mary’s College, Templeogue College and St Michael’s College. A fifth, Rockwell College, is in Co Tipperary.

While recent “commendable” initiatives by the current provincial leaders showed “a serious approach” to accepting responsibility for past failures and to ensuring the future safety of children, the board said more measures were required and made 16 recommendations in that regard.

It said the recent establishment of a monitoring panel whose members include a former garda was “welcome and necessary” but must be reviewed annually.

A total of 142 allegations of abuse by Holy Ghost or Spiritan priests were made between 1975 and 1994, but suspected abusers were often moved, within Ireland or abroad, provoking concern that other victims had yet to come forward here or in countries such as the US, Canada and Sierra Leone, the review noted.

The order’s files made “very sad reading”, it said. There were “unacceptable failures” to prevent abuse that children “could have been spared if action was taken” and the congregation’s current leadership had to carry the responsibility for those past failures.

One “prolific abuser”, who abused children over 13 years and was removed from ministry in 1995, was found on an internet forum in 2011. Despite concerns raised about the priest within three years of the abuse starting, he continued to abuse children for a further 10 years.

Another priest who abused 28 children between 1968 and 1993 was removed from ministry only in 1996. He has since died.

Files provided to the NBSC by the Spiritans showed serial abusers in schools “went undetected and unchecked, giving them unmonitored access to children during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s”.

Of the 47 priests about whom allegations were made between 1975 and 1994, just eight are still alive, with three out of ministry. Three Spiritans have been convicted of abuse.

The NBSC review focused on files related to living priests and measures by the current provincial leadership to ensure a safe environment for children. It noted Spiritans no longer teach in their schools but there are some Spiritan chaplains.

Some abuse allegations were reported by Spiritan leaders from 1994 on, but those made before 1994 were not reported to the Garda or health boards for years. While a 1996 Catholic Church document required reporting of abuse, some reports were not made until four years after that. All 142 claims have been reported by now.

In 1994, a new provincial of the order with a greater awareness of abuse removed some men from ministry and contact with children, the review said.

The NBSC has recommended the provincial leaders draw up a plan to reach out to abuse victims and their families and encourage other victims to come forward.

The board also recommended setting clear guidelines for raising and managing child protection concerns and prioritising the issue when recruiting brothers and staff. The Spiritans must be vigilant and have annual audits of all its communities, it said. Canon law investigations must be reactivated on all living priests against whom claims were made, it added.

© 2012 The Irish Times

 


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Hundreds of children exposed to serial abusers


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