Catholic dioceses child practices review to take five years

THE ONGOING review into the Catholic Church’s safeguarding practices could take another five years.

Given the amount of work needed to review child protection practices at all the country’s dioceses, the review is ‘unlikely’ to be completed before 2016.

On Wednesday, when the first set of reviews were published, the National Board of Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church boss Ian Elliott said it would take ‘at least two years’.

But it emerged last night that many of those facing review do not even know when their review is set to start.

Others are simply refusing to say publicly whether or not a review of their child protection policies and practices was either under way or has a date set for when it is due to start.

So far just five dioceses – Ardagh, Dromore, Kilmore, Derry and Raphoe, and the Tuam Archdiocese – have had their reviews completed.

Those reports, which were all critical of the way allegations of abuse had been handled in the past but complimentary of how they are handled now, were published on Tuesday.

They revealed that 164 abuse allegations had been lodged with Gardaí in the past 36 years against 85 priests, but that there were just eight convictions.

But the next round of reports will not be published until next May or June at the earliest, and they will only focus on four dioceses and two congregations.

One diocese to be reviewed is Limerick, where 23 priests have had abuse allegations made against them since 1940, but none have been convicted.

Until 2009, Limerick shared a case management committee with the Diocese of Cloyne.

The committee was heavily criticised in the Cloyne Report for putting the interests of abusers above those of their victims.

Last night, a spokesman for the Limerick diocese said: ‘We can confirm that the Limerick diocese wrote to the NBSCCC in November and requested that it be the next diocese audited by them. We expect this to take place in the Spring.’

Of the 17 dioceses contacted yesterday and asked a range of questions about their priests and the current state of any

NBSCCC review, just two – Down & Connor and Limerick – answered them.

It also emerged last night that the report into Tuam contained a significant error.

In the audit, both the HSE and the gardaí were accused of a series of failures in how they had historically handled allegations of clerical abuse.

But it also made a categorical statement about the current handling of allegation.

It stated: ‘It is often the case that once an allegation is forwarded to (civil authorities), there is a significant delay in establishing if a crime has been committed and if there is any risk to children.’

However, each ‘is’ in the statement should have read ‘was’.

Last night a spokesman for the NBSCCC admitted: ‘This should have referred to matters in a historical sense. It is a mistake.’

A spokeswoman for Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said last night: ‘We are so far only looking at a very small part of the bigger picture here and the Minister wants to see all the information.

‘She is particularly interested in the outcome of the ongoing HSE audit.’

The release of that report is due in the coming weeks.

And the minister has said she is waiting on the report’s publication before making her mind up about whether or not to hold a full statutory inquiry into clerical abuse.