Alliance Support Group

April 2013 Archives

Boring audit answers prayers of battle-weary church dioceses

Garry O’Sullivan

IN his Northern peace process memoir 'Making Peace', Senator George Mitchell mused that he hoped he could go with his son into the Stormont Assembly 10 years after the Good Friday Agreement and be bored by the proceedings – a sign of normalcy in democratic politics.

Reading the six reviews of Irish Catholic dioceses by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCI) – its third tranche – that same sense of 'normalcy' is evident as the clean bills of health, notwithstanding historic problems, are handed out.

Only Clogher diocese came in for some criticism of its management of allegations and this was prior to the current bishop's appointment in 2010. Under Bishop Duffy, now retired, the diocese "consistently missed" opportunities for "preventative interventions".

Maeve Lewis of One in Four called the reviews "reassuring" and called on the Children's Minister to accelerate the Children First legislation.

Behind the success of the clean-up in the church is an army of volunteers, according to NBSCCI CEO Ian Elliott, who have been giving their time to support the safeguarding of children in the church, with "heroic" efforts.

Reading the review of the Ferns Diocese, just over 10 years from the crisis it faced in 2002 after a documentary on abuser Fr Sean Fortune, the George Mitchell measure of 'normalcy' is evident. The diocese is 'boringly' compliant and this compliancy seems to be becoming a more pedestrian part of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Just as the causes of the Northern Ireland conflict are complex, so too are the issues around child abuse in society complex.

Why do so many people in our society abuse? To see it as a problem particular to the Catholic Church is to bury one's head in the sand. The name Jimmy Savile screams out that it is not just a clerical problem but something deeply corrupt in many societies.

Although the Catholic Church was dragged kicking and screaming by media and public pressure to clean up its mess, we now have a template for other institutions that work with children.

It is also a template for society at large where children die in care or don't get anything close to the care they need, and that's happening today, now – not 10 years or more ago. Maeve Lewis is right to keep the spotlight on the Government – some of whose ministers were happy to criticise the church and then stay silent when it was revealed that the State was utterly failing many children on a daily basis.

For the church, there are two major considerations as it looks to a better future and one is for the global church. Pope Francis needs to ensure that every diocese in the world is doing what dioceses like Ferns are doing.

He has highlighted the poor in his early days as Pontiff, and none are poorer than innocent children dependent fully on adults who are in positions of trust. Could the diocese of Ferns be called upon by the Pope to export its experience and best practice to every diocese around the world?

The Pope, too, could take a long, hard look at clericalism, the kind that is still evident in the Vatican and Rome which has a natural distrust of laypeople. It is the 'army of volunteers' who are showing the institutional church that it couldn't do it on its own in the past and it certainly can't now.

Just as in the Northern Conflict, victims of abuse in the church are still hurting and many are still angry and these reviews will be cold comfort for the years of being called liars or feeling isolated because they weren't believed. That healing process and compensation process must continue.

In a similar vein, we should also note the vast majority of priests who are good and decent human beings doing a tough job. And we also shouldn't forget the many priests against whom there have been false allegations – they, too, are victims.

So much human misery could have been avoided because the church had the means in its 1911 Code of Canon Law to deal with abusers swiftly and give justice to their victims.

Why church leaders – bishops – failed to implement their own church law, and the law of conscience is a damning indictment of a systemic problem that has not been properly addressed. Pope Francis needs to put this at the top of his reform agenda.

Garry O'Sullivan is managing director of 'The Irish Catholic' 

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Latest Report - Clerical Abuse

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Watchdog Elliott played key role in Catholic Church child safety reform


The church got more than it bargained for in the tenacious chief executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children

“One Catholic bishop is said to have complained: ‘Ian Elliott just doesn’t understand us.” Photograph Brenda Fitzsimons

Thu, Apr 25, 2013, 06:00


So it’s goodbye to Ian Elliott. Some in the Catholic Church in Ireland clearly have felt it has been less than good to know him. Then maybe it’s just the beginning of a longer farewell involving the chief executive of the church’s child protection “watchdog-with-a-helluva- bite” and the authorities in Maynooth.

He may yet be employed on a consultancy basis as the review process in the church’s 162 institutions goes on.

It is doubtful whether the Catholic Church on this island has ever owed as much to a Presbyterian where restoring its credibility is concerned. Yesterday’s “gratifying” reports on current child protection practices in six dioceses and one religious congregation would hardly have been possible without his doggedness. He has played a hugely significant role in making Catholic parishes in Ireland today among the safest places for children.

With hindsight it would appear that when church authorities headhunted him in 2007 to be chief executive of the new National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, to give it its full name, they had not bargained on what they got.

His track record in Northern Ireland, whether with the NSPCC or the DHSS, would have offered plenty of evidence. And in Maynooth he was not for turning. One Catholic bishop is said to have complained that “Ian Elliott just doesn’t understand us.” Mr Elliott was not alone.

His determination became clear in December 2008 when his report on “inadequate and in some respects dangerous” child protection practices in Cloyne diocese was published. It led to the resignation of Bishop John Magee and the extension of the Murphy Commission’s remit to include Cloyne diocese.

In March 2010 he spoke publicly of the “hostility” he experienced from bishops and others “who create difficulties” as he attempted to implement uniform child protection guidelines in the church.

In November 2011 Bishop of Derry Seamus Hegarty stood down prior to publication of the NBSC report.

Last year Mr Elliott was cleared of an accusation by Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Traenor that he had been spinning against church leadership in off-the-record briefings with journalists. It followed an internal inquiry by former Supreme Court judge Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness. The bishop apologised.

Yesterday’s reports were further proof that, where child protection is concerned, the Catholic Church in Ireland has finally “got it”. There could be no finer tribute to Mr Elliott.  





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Half a century of abuse covered up


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Magdalene survivors should get redress this year according to a solicitor advising some of the women





Members of the Magdalene Survivors Together group who met with Judge John Quirke
Members of the Magdalene Survivors Together group who met with Judge John Quirke

Hundreds of survivors of Magdalene Laundries should begin to receive redress from the State this year, according to a solicitor advising some of them.

Frank Buttimer revealed that 500 women have already applied to have their claims considered by Mr Justice John Quirke.

The Government has asked Judge Quirke to devise a compensation scheme.

Mr Buttimer made his remarks to RTÉ News while accompanying some 75 women to a series of meetings with the judge in Dublin today.

The women had come from many parts of the country to participate in the day-long consultations.

Mr Buttimer said the meetings were part of an information-gathering process during which the women would assess what may be involved in the redress scheme the judge is working on.

The judge would also be able to listen to the women's views in advance of reporting to the Justice Minister Alan Shatter, he said.

Call for income forgone reward

Meanwhile, survivors attending the meetings have called for the State to reward them for income foregone.

They also seek redress for the pain and suffering they endured while they lived in the Laundries, the last of which closed in 1996.

Maureen O'Sullivan, from Carlow, said she was a child slave in the Good Shepherd laundry in New Ross, Co Wexford.

Mary McManus, who lives in Athlone, said she was starved for two years by the Sisters of Charity in Stanhope Street.

Her father had put her and her sister, Kathleen Jenette, into the laundry on the advice of his sister, a nun who said they would receive training.

Ms McManus said they got no training but instead were made to work for long hours in the Sisters of Charity's industrial laundry for two years.

Her sister Kathleen said the worst part was handling sheets from hospitals' operating theatres.

She said they were forbidden by the nuns to speak and that she was too embarrassed to speak when her mother took her out of the institution and returned home with her to their large family.

Mr Buttimer said he agreed with the Taoiseach's comments that the State's response to the Magdalene women should not be exploited by lawyers.

He said he was advising the Magdalene Survivors Together Group rather than representing the women and that the Group was paying for his services.

"I agree it should remain a lawyer-free zone insofar as possible," said the solicitor.

“But the ladies may need some advice because there will be complications."

He said he did not envisage his involvement would be for too long.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for some survivors has criticised Judge Quirke for his handling of the meetings.

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, Steven O'Riordan of Magdalene Survivors Together said that the women, who come from many parts of the country, had turned up a Dublin venue at 3.30pm as requested.

He said they were left waiting for over an hour-and-a-half before Mr Justice Quirke met any of them.

Mr O'Riordan said one elderly wheel-chair-bound woman was unable to remain awake as she waited her turn.

He said the women were asked about their current circumstances regarding family, work and housing and not about the kind of compensation scheme they wanted.

Mr O'Riordan said that he found this confusing.

Facilitated by the State

A report on Magdalene Laundries, published in February, found the State was directly involved in their running.

It found that just over one quarter of referrals were made by or facilitated by the State.

They were sent there by court order, gardaí, social services or under supervision after leaving industrial or reformatory schools.

An estimated 11,500 women passed through ten institutions between 1922 and 1996.

The report of the Inter-Departmental Committee found the environment in the laundries was harsh.

It said the women were involved in physically demanding work, which produced a traumatic and lasting impact on the girls.

Four congregations ran Magdalene Laundries: The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Mercy Sisters, the Sisters of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters. 



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Statutory Fund Details - At Last

Dear Tom,
The contact details for the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund are the same as for the former Education Finance Board, i.e. its address is Floor 3, Frederick Court, 24/27 North Frederick Street, Dublin 1 Tel: 1890 742 742 Fax: 01 8745709 Email: . A new website has also been set up -

From: []

To: OhAonghusa, Aongus; ONeill, Anne ( RIRU Athlone);;;;;
Subject: Statutory Fund

Would you please help by assisting us with details of the Offices/ Telephone Contact Numbers/Advice about the Statutory Fund committee.
Night after night now we are inundated with calls (some rude/crude) about these details.
Please be aware, that unlike you and others, this is our home and we have  run the Alliance Support Group from it for over 12 years now and surely we should be entitled to be treated in a fairer way by both your Department and the Statutory Fund Committee!.
We need help now.
Tom Hayes 

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Catholic church in UK faces child sex abuse quiz



A bishop is believed to be under investigation by officers from Operation Fernbridge – set up by the Metropolitan Police to look into historical cases of paedophilia

Westminster Cathedral
Westminster Cathedral

Cops are probing an alleged widespread child abuse cover-up in the Catholic Church in the UK, the Sunday People reports .

A bishop is believed to be under investigation by officers from Operation Fernbridge – set up by the Metropolitan Police to look into historical cases of paedophilia.

The detectives are examining claims that the prelate protected priests who were sexually abusing youngsters, investigative website Exaro and the Sunday People can reveal today.

Officers are also thought to be probing other areas of the Catholic church that may have been involved in a large-scale cover-up of paedophilia.

The dramatic new move comes after the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal triggered massive Met investigations into allegations of offences by celebrities and politicians.

The Vatican has been rocked by major inquiries into claims of abuse in Ireland, the US, Belgium, Holland and Switzerland.

But this is the first time the Catholic church in the UK, which has its HQ at Westminster Cathedral, has faced such a probe – although there have been isolated cases at individual churches or schools.

A spokesman for the Church in England and Wales said: “I am not aware of any generic police investigation into sexual abuse linked to the Catholic church in the UK.

“Similarly, I am not aware of any investigation into a particular bishop. However, were there to be an investigation, clearly we would co-operate.”

Pope Francis called for “decisive action” on paedophile priests soon after his election last month.

Jimmy Savile
Jimmy Savile








His predecessor Pope Benedict was still a cardinal when he vowed in 2001 to tackle the “filth” of abuse in the church. But claims of a major cover-up persisted.

There has been a huge growth in police investigations into paedophilia since Savile was exposed as a serial abuser last October.

The scandal sparked Scotland Yard’s Operation Yewtree, which is investigating the late BBC presenter and DJ and other showbiz figures.

Operation Fernbridge is also looking into allegations boys in care in Richmond, south-west London, were sexually abused between 1977 and 1983 – initially at Grafton Close children’s home and then at Elm Guest House in nearby Barnes.

The first charges from this operation are expected within weeks.

The Met is also running Operation Fairbank to investigate alleged child abuse by senior political figures.

The Sunday People and Exaro revealed last week that Met commander Peter Spindler, who was overseeing the investigations, had made a surprise move to join HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, the official police watchdog.

An inquiry into 60 Catholic residential schools in Ireland found children were treated as prisoners and often raped and beaten. In the US there have been hundreds of prosecutions of priests and others.

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Compensation Claims

498 compensation claims to Magdalene fund

Almost 500 survivors of Magdalene Laundries have applied to be included in the planned compensation fund.


The Department of Justice confirmed that at the close of business last Friday, it had received 498 expressions of interest forms in relation to the Magdalene Fund, which covers 11 institutions run by four religious orders.

It has received 1,150 calls enquiring about the fund. However, the department said it was not in a position to provide a breakdown in terms of how many resident outside the State had been in contact.

Following on from Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s State apology to those who suffered abuse in the Magdalene Laundries, Mr Justice John Quirke was appointed to devise an ex-gratia fund and to advise how the Government can provide supports, including healthcare, counselling, medical cards and other welfare needs. He is due to report back in mid-May and has already met with all of the Magdalene survivor groups.

In a statement, the department said it would not seek to advertise the redress scheme more widely until Judge Quirke has reported back to the Government.

However, Justice for Magdalenes (JFM), the survivor advocacy group, has raised questions about the Government’s lack of advertising of the Magdalene Fund.

Prof James Smith of Boston College and JFM Advisory Committee said it has not been made clear what will happen if women do not express an interest in registering with the fund during the three months of Judge Quirke’s deliberation.

“The consequences of a survivor not registering with the Magdalene Fund during the three months of Mr Justice Quirke’s review have not been made clear. In this year of ‘The Gathering’ it is imperative that the Government reach out to Magdalene survivors at home and abroad to ensure that each and every survivor has an equal opportunity to engage with the process.”

Magdalene Survivors Together have said they are seeking €50,000 in compensation for trauma suffered for each woman and €20,000 for each year worked in the laundry.

€250,000 has been provided to Britain-based survivors of Magdalene Laundries and Industrial Schools.

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Abuse group founder Phyllis Morgan 'forced' to retire


Outreach worker Phyllis Morgan at the Irish Centre in Camden Square

Woman, 66, who helped launch a support service for Irish convent victims, is told to leave

Published: July 28, 2011

A SURVIVOR of Irish convent abuse who set up a pioneering group to help victims living in London says she has been pushed out of her job because of her age.

Outreach worker Phyllis Morgan, 66, will leave the London Irish Centre at Camden Square tomorrow (Friday).

She has worked there for more than 10 years, running the London Irish Survivors Outreach Ser­vice and helping thousands of victims who were abused in religious convents as children. Ms Morgan said: “I love my work and I don’t see why I should have to leave because of my age. They are doing this before the law changes.”

New rules banning employers from firing staff because they have reached the retirement age comes into effect in October.

David Barlow, the Irish Centre’s new director, said its board had been in retirement talks with Ms Morgan for two years.

He told the New Journal that her contract had been temporarily extended when she reached 65 but that to comment further would break employment rules.

Mr Barlow stressed that the service was not closing and that board members had been in talks with Irish ministers this week about the continued funding of the project.

He added: “Services for victims of abuse will continue.

“The London Irish Centre takes its commitment to survivors very seriously.”

Ms Morgan was a victim of the physical and mental abuse suffered by tens of thousands of children placed in the care of Catholic religious orders.

At the age of three, she was separated from her mother and placed in the full-time care of nuns.

She told how she would eat pig food because it was better than what was offered to her. “We were treated worse than pigs,” she added.

Ms Morgan said she spent her entire childhood at three convents in the Dublin area, where she claims the nuns abused her.

“Children were placed in these convents for various reasons,” she said.

“They were all over Ireland and many fled to come here to Camden. The are all such a vulnerable group.

“They are not able to hold down jobs because they were so damaged – many were repeatedly raped.

“Many live in dire homes and we get them into better homes. We help them get compensation. We have made a difference to so many lives. It is unbelievable how busy we are.”

The last of the 132 convents of this kind was shut down in 1986. The Irish government issued guidance following an inquiry in 2009 that a state-funded support service should be provided for all victims.

The Camden-based survivors service is funded by Ireland’s Department of Education and costs around £94,000 a year. 

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Anxiety that Magdalene women in diaspora be made aware of Government fund

Justice for Magdalenes publishes survivor guide

Anxiety that Magdalene women in diaspora be made aware of Government fund

Justice for Magdalenes prepared its guide in  response to requests for guidance from women who had been in the laundries, their relatives and some politicians. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Justice for Magdalenes prepared its guide in response to requests for guidance from women who had been in the laundries, their relatives and some politicians. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Tue, Apr 2, 2013, 08:06

The Justice for Magdalenes advocacy group has published a guide for women who were incarcerated in the Magdalene laundries as they prepare to engage with the Government Magdalene Fund. Titled Survivor Guide to Magdalen Commission , it is available at

Following the official State apology by Taoiseach Enda Kenny on February 19th, the Government asked Mr Justice John Quirke to undertake a three-month review following which he is to make recommendations on criteria for applications to the Magdalene Fund.

Women who had been in the laundries and who have not already registered with the Magdalene Commission are encouraged to do so.

The group’s guide is intended solely as an aid to the women. Its purpose is to help them and their families create a checklist of their current needs.

The group has emphasised that it is not intended to supplant or replace any official documents created by the Magdalene Commission or the Irish State and that it is being offered solely to help the women engage with the statutory process.

It was prepared by the advocacy group as a practical response to requests for guidance made to it by some women who had been in the laundries, their relatives and some politicians.

It has also been supplied to other Magdalene support groups as well as to relevant NGOs, citizens information and family resource centres.

The Justice for Magdalenes group is particularly anxious that survivors not affiliated or aligned with any support group, as well as those among the wider Irish diaspora, are made aware of the need to register with the Magdalene Commission .

Registration forms are available at or by phoning 01-476 8649 

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