Thursday, 17 November 2005
Ferns Report: Statements (Resumed).
Paul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
There have been some instances of that in recent years and there was one notable one in my own party. In fairness, Deputy O'Donnell apologised for her over the top remarks. She wronged the Taoiseach by her silly reference to All Hallows.
The church's role in education must be put in context. We would not have our current education system were it not for the number of national schools that are effectively church controlled. The system would not have been as good as it is, nor would it have been possible to provide it, without the church's input.
During the previous debate, Senator Maurice Hayes referred to the role of the De la Salle Brothers. I was also a student at a De la Salle school for years and I never witnessed a single instance of abuse, nor was there any talk of it. I do not believe that any abuse took place there or in the other schools I attended, including St. Brendan's in Killarney. I never came across or heard a reference to a single instance of abuse.
I accept the arrangements the Government has put in place concerning the Dublin archdiocese, but we do not need to go digging holes all over the country. I think that is also the Minister of State's view. We can be satisfied with the procedures that have been established.
The Ferns Report states:
The Inquiry believes that the appointment as Chairman of the Board of Management of national schools... should be made with utmost care and diligence. As will be obvious from the allegations set out in this Report, some priests appear to have abused their position as Managers of national schools in order to access children.
Now that new procedures are in place that cannot happen again, so we can be satisfied that it has been overcome.
The report recommended that consideration be given immediately to the creation of a new criminal offence to apply where persons fail to take action to protect a child from abuse. I wholeheartedly endorse the use of soft information in our child protection procedures, which is also supported by the inquiry through the interagency review committee.
We all accept that overall responsibility for child protection lies with the State, and that no one organisation or group is above the law in this matter. This report must prompt a unified response from the Government with action needed from the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Health and Children, and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. All three Departments have a clear and vital role in the protection of children, young people and vulnerable people of any age.
The Minister of State accepted those points in his address on the previous occasion. We are all in step in agreeing on those points. Once we are satisfied with the audit, we do not need to dig holes all over the place.