Local dioceses commended for handling abuse allegations

THE dioceses of Kimore and Ardagh & Clonmacnois have both been commended for their handling of allegations of abuse against priests by the National Board for Safeguarding Children.

THE dioceses of Kimore and Ardagh & Clonmacnois have both been commended for their handling of allegations of abuse against priests by the National Board for Safeguarding Children.

The review was carried out on both dioceses in 2010 and 2011 and in the reports published today the board said, “Kilmore may be viewed as a model of best practise within the church in this critical time.”

It highly commended the work of Bishop Leo O’Reilly in Kilmore and Bishop Colm O’Reilly in Ardagh & Clonmacnois and their staff.

Half of Leitrim is located within the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois which has a total of 41 parishes. Of the nineteen case files made available to the reviewers, only three fell within the scope of the review which dealt with priests alive at the time of the allegations. In total, 13 allegations were made against priests in the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois between January, 1975 and April 2011. 14 cases involving priests were investigated by Gardai and nine were reported to the Health authorities. Only one of these priests was still alive in April 2011. Also just one priest in the diocese was convicted of an offence against a child in the above period.

Recommendations for Ardagh and Clonmacnois included the appointment of a second, preferably female, Designated Person to deal with reports of abuse. It was also suggested this appointment should be of a lay person and the report also highlighted the need for a prospective Designated Person to be brought on board in order to make the transition smoother when it came to handing over the reigns. To combat issues created by the sheer number of Garda areas covered by the diocese the report also recommended bi-annual meetings between the Bishop, Gardai and the HSE to develop relationships.

Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois, Colm O’Reilly welcomed the review stating that he hoped the pain suffered as a result of wrong doing by Church personnel will “be lessened by the knowledge that their lives can move into a new phase when some at least of the past can be left behind. I want to express my sorrow at how they have been made to suffer.”

Bishop Colm went on to say he was satisfied the Diocese now had good policies and procedures in place however he said he believed there “will always be need for reappraisal and revision”.

The Diocese of Kilmore comprises 36 parishes mainly in Cavan and Leitrim.

During the period from 1975 until June 2010, there were allegations of abuse against seven priests of the Diocese of Kilmore. All seven cases were reported to the Gardai and HSE. One priest was convicted in the courts of abuse of a minor and is currently serving a sentence. Four of these priests are still alive, two are “out of ministry” or have left he priesthood and two are still in ministry or retired. Twenty one case files were reviewed by the national board. Papers relating to Fr Brendan Smyth who was a serial offender were also read but were not included in the statistics. The report said the response to Brendan Smyth was considered “inadequate” but pointed out that this was before the authority of Bishop Leo O’Reilly.

The report highly commended the work of Bishop Leo O’Reilly. It recommended that the role of designated person and the deputy designated person for safeguarding children is best undertaken by a lay person. It recommends ‘greater security’ in looking after case files and suggests the Safeguarding Committee should consider planning a diocesan safeguarding conference as well an annual self audit of the safeguarding practises.

For more information see this week’s Leitrim Observer.