Seanad debates

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Report by Commission of Investigation into Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin: Statements


Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Louth, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I welcome the fact that Senators have made time available to discuss this important report. They will have had the opportunity to read and reflect on the report of the commission of investigation into the handling by church and State authorities of allegations and suspicions of child abuse against clerics of the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin. My initial reaction and I am sure that of every Senator was revulsion at the horrific details set out in the report. However, after that first reaction, it becomes clear from the report that a systemic, calculated perversion of power and trust was visited on helpless and innocent children in the archdiocese over a 30 year period.

Our first thoughts must be with the victims of this injustice. We all owe them a profound debt for their brave co-operation with the commission in its work. If there is any light in this horror, it is the outstanding selflessness they have shown in the face of great adversity in fighting for justice and bringing into public view the harrowing catalogue of the abuse of power. The Government has already expressed its appreciation to the chairperson and members of the commission for the extremely valuable work they have carried out. I reiterate that appreciation.

The findings of the commission are clear and unequivocal. The archdiocese's preoccupation in dealing with cases of child sexual abuse, at least until the mid-1990s, was the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the church and the preservation of its assets. All other considerations, including the welfare of children and justice for victims, were subordinated to these priorities. Furthermore, the archdiocese did not implement its own canon law rules and did its best to avoid any application of the law of the State. While I recognise that the archdiocese and the religious orders have made a significant contribution to the citizens of Ireland for many years, it is a matter of profound regret that the tradition of deference which so many showed to their church was, in so far as child abuse was concerned, entirely misplaced and had the effect of further abusing the victims.

The report, rightly, deals with the failings of agencies of the State. In its statement issued on publication of the report the Government, on behalf of the State, apologised without reservation or equivocation for the failures by the agencies of the State in dealing with this issue. As the report states, it is the responsibility of the State to ensure no similar institutional immunity is ever allowed to occur again. A number of the perpetrators have been brought to justice, proceedings are pending against others and a number of investigations are ongoing. It was because a number of cases were the subject of proceedings that it was necessary for me, in accordance with the provisions of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004, to make an application to the High Court for directions as to the publication of parts of the report. The House will be aware that in the circumstances Mr. Justice Gilligan ordered certain redactions from the report.

The commission of investigation found that the situation regarding the handling of complaints of clerical child sexual abuse had improved in the 1990s. All complaints of such abuse made to the archdiocese and other church authorities are now reported to the Garda Síochána. However, in the past there were a number of inappropriate contacts between the Garda and the archdiocese. In the half dozen or so cases where Garda handling of cases is criticised in the report, a common theme is that deference to the church brought about a situation where individual gardaí treated members of the church as if they were beyond the reach of the law. The Garda Commissioner has expressed his sorrow that individuals who sought assistance did not always receive the level of response and protection they were entitled to expect from the Garda. Perhaps in those times gardaí were not unique in showing such deference. However, it is not now, nor ever has been, acceptable that institutions behave or are treated as being above the law of the State. I stress that this is a republic where the people are sovereign and no institution, agency or church can be immune from that fact.

In fairness to members of the Garda Síochána, it is only right to point out that the commission makes no criticism of current arrangements for investigating such allegations. Reflecting the comments of victims, the commission is quite complimentary about these arrangements. It points out that even in former times, a number of gardaí, to their credit, pursued these cases without fear or favour. I pay tribute to the professionalism and sensitivity of individual members of the Garda Síochána, as reflected by the positive comments made by the commission in their regard.

When I received the report last July, I immediately sent it to the Garda Commissioner and the Director of Public Prosecutions. Since that time, the report has been subject to scrutiny by senior Garda officers. In addition, I have discussed it frequently with the Garda Commissioner. It is clear from my contacts with him that neither he nor the force will rest until everything possible is done to ensure the perpetrators of this awful abuse pay for their crimes. He has asked assistant commissioner John O'Mahoney to examine the report's findings relating to the handling of complaints and investigations by both church and State, to carry out such investigations and inquiries as he deems appropriate and to make a report to him with his recommendations. He will then consult the Director of Public Prosecutions as to what issues arise in the context of criminal liability.

That examination of acts and omissions must be on the basis of the criminal law as it was at the time. We must be realistic about the difficulty in bringing charges against people who were involved in covering up abuse, in some cases a considerable time ago. Such difficulties are outlined in the report. The Garda Commissioner and I are determined that everything possible will be done to progress this as far as possible. What the victims are entitled to expect is that the issue of criminal liability on the part of anyone in authority, either church or State, in the handling of these cases would be pursued fully and rigorously and this will happen. Assistant commissioner O'Mahoney and his team will have the full investigative powers of the Garda Síochána in carrying out this examination and they will pursue their inquiries, without fear or favour and wherever they may lead.

The Criminal Justice Act 2006 introduced a new offence of reckless endangerment of children, following a recommendation to that effect in the report of the Ferns inquiry published in October 2005. This makes it an offence for a person with authority or control over a child or abuser to intentionally or recklessly endanger a child by causing or permitting any child to be placed or left in a situation which creates a substantial risk to the child of being a victim of serious harm or abuse or for failing to take reasonable steps to protect a child from such a risk while knowing that the child is in such a situation.

On publication of the report I stated I believed there must be people who hold some memory or fact which can help bring these people to face justice and I appealed for those people to come forward. The Commissioner has also appealed to anyone who has experienced child sexual abuse and who has relevant information about criminal offences to contact the Garda. A dedicated phone line has been set up for this purpose and I will repeat the number in this House, as I did in the other House. The number is 01-6663066. People may also write to the Office of the Assistant Commissioner, National Support Service, An Garda Síochána, Harcourt Square, Dublin 2, marking the envelope, "Dublin Archdiocese Report".

The report notes that the Garda domestic violence and sexual assault investigation unit, based at Harcourt Square, was praised by many complainants who gave evidence to the commission. The work of this unit is now supplemented by a series of initiatives and measures designed to enhance the investigative ability of the Garda Síochána and provide specialist officers nationwide with the skills required to deal with victims of sexual offences. These measures include the establishment of a crime training facility and the training and appointment of specialist child interviewers based throughout the country.

Nevertheless and notwithstanding the positive findings of the commission with regard to current Garda practices, the Commissioner and I accept it is necessary to continually review approaches to ensure the highest standards and best international practice continue to be maintained. Against that background and having consulted the Commissioner, I am requesting the Garda Inspectorate, headed by Ms Kathleen O'Toole, former police chief in Boston, to carry out as part of its work programme a review of arrangements for dealing with allegations of sexual abuse of children.

I wish to deal briefly with some public comment made about paragraphs 2.23 and 2.24 of the report in which the commission set out its dealings with a body in Rome known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as well as correspondence with the papal nuncio. I have already made it abundantly clear both in the other House and in Brussels, when I made public comments, my strong view, which I believe is shared by all Members of this House, that any person or organisation, either within or without this State, with information relevant to the commission's work should co-operate fully with the commission. To do otherwise would be a further betrayal of the victims of abuse.

Contacts outlined in the report were in line with normal practice and, as such, they were dealt with at official and not political level within the Department of Foreign Affairs. That Department merely transmitted a message from the Vatican to the commission via the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the relevant line Department. It is stated clearly in paragraph 2.23 of the report that the commission decided, independently of Government, not to proceed further by means of diplomatic channels. I do not wish to dwell on this point but I would be less than frank if I did not say it is deeply saddening that some Members of the Oireachtas are of the opinion that the appropriate response to a report dealing with decades of dreadful cruelty to children is to indulge in mischievous and baseless political points scoring. My position has always been clear.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I invite the Minister to give the House an example in order that we know what he is talking about.

Photo of Pat MoylanPat Moylan (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

No interruptions, please. The Minister is speaking.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context

It is very important to know what he is talking about.

Photo of Pat MoylanPat Moylan (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

The Senator will have an opportunity to speak.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Louth, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I defer only to the people of Ireland by whose grace I hold public office. I reiterate that in our quest for justice, no institution at home or abroad, no church or state can shirk their undoubted responsibilities in this area. The commission dealt with this issue in two paragraphs of a 720 page report. Without in any way underestimating its significance, I hope Senators can agree that an excessive concentration on this issue carries with it the real danger of distracting from the far more profound issues which this report poses so starkly for the church.

Following a meeting between the Minister of State with responsibility for children and youth affairs and church leaders in late January 2009, it was agreed there would be a renewed engagement in developing a revised audit questionnaire to ensure the HSE, as the statutorily responsible body, is made fully aware of all cases of clerical child sex abuse known to the church, including the whereabouts of alleged perpetrators. A detailed questionnaire issued to each diocese and completed replies have been received by the HSE from the head of each diocese. The audit, as currently designed, will be finalised by 22 December in respect of the dioceses. It is hoped that a similar audit of religious orders may also be completed by that date. A number of dioceses have asked to resubmit their questionnaire responses and these requests have been assented to. This will of necessity entail a delay in the process but with the expectation that it will lead to improved outcomes. The returns have been submitted and child care managers who have undertaken the task of engaging with the dioceses are finalising their work. This involves face-to-face interviews with each bishop.

The newly appointed assistant national director of the HSE with responsibility for children and family services was commended by the commission of investigation for the manner in which he carried out his previous role as director of child protection in the archdiocese of Dublin. He has suggested that to verify the data provided, additional information will be required from the HSE in respect of each diocese. He has recommended that in addition to the information already supplied by the dioceses, the HSE's child care managers should request from the relevant diocesan bishops and provincials of each religious order the names of the complainant and the person against whom the complaint was made in respect of each allegation referred to in the audit return, the location where the matter was reported to the HSE and the Garda Síochána and the date the report was made. The child care managers will arrange for each internal HSE file to be checked to ensure the matter has been dealt with appropriately by the State and the diocese in question. A member of the national children and family social services team in the HSE will then liaise with the Garda Síochána to ensure receipt of all the allegations as referred to in the audit. According to the assistant national director, the collation of this additional information will allow the HSE to submit a more detailed and comprehensive report to the Minister of State with responsibility for children and youth affairs. The Minister of State, Deputy Barry Andrews, supports this approach. The HSE will now write to each bishop requesting the additional information.

The exchange of soft information, that is, information which is available to authorities but where the person to whom the information relates has not been charged or convicted of a criminal offence, is a highly important aspect of child protection and a crucial step in improving our capability in tackling sexual abuse. The office of the Minister of State with responsibility for children and youth affairs, in co-operation with my Department, has commenced the process of preparing the heads of a Bill in respect of the use of soft information and is consulting other Departments, the Garda Síochána and the HSE regarding these draft heads. The findings of the commission's report with regard to the collection and sharing of information will be fully taken into account in this process. The proposed legislation will also have regard to the constitutional rights of persons, including the right to equality before the law, the right to a good name, the right to privacy and the right to earn a livelihood. It will also address the right to fair procedures and have regard to the European Convention on Human Rights.

In addition to this legislation, a revised edition of the Children First guidelines is to be published shortly and the guidelines will be promulgated throughout the public service. The office of the Minister of State with responsibility for children and youth affairs is committed to the preparation of legislation to ensure State employees and staff from key agencies in receipt of Exchequer funding and who are working with children will have a duty to comply with the Children First guidelines.

In responding to the recommendations contained in the Ryan report, the Minister of State with responsibility for children and youth affairs published an implementation plan last July which included 99 specific action points to improve the delivery of children's services. The plan is ambitious but represents an honest assessment of the improvements required. Two critical commitments in the implementation plan include the filling of 270 social work posts within the HSE's child protection service and the drafting by December 2010 of the legislation to provide that all staff employed by the State and staff employed in agencies in receipt of funding from the Exchequer will have a duty to comply with the Children First national guidelines.

The commission's report expresses concern about the statutory powers of the Health Service Executive to deal with child sexual abuse by non-family members. The office of the Minister of State will consult further with the Office of the Attorney General to seek clarity in this regard. However, in the wake of the publication of the Ferns Report in 2005, legal advice was sought from the Attorney General regarding the powers of health boards, or the HSE as it now is, to investigate and deal with instances of child abuse perpetrated outside the family. The Attorney General was not of the view that the HSE's powers under section 3 of the Child Care Act 1991 are limited to cases of intra-family abuse. Under this section, the HSE has powers "to promote the welfare of children ... who are not receiving adequate care and protection". The executive stated it responds to all allegations of child sex abuse regardless of the circumstances of the allegation. However, the office of the Minister of State with responsibility for children and youth affairs will consult further with the Attorney General's office on this issue in the light of both the comments by the commission and the recommendation of the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children to introduce legislation on the use of soft information.

The Government earlier this year requested the commission of investigation to extend its work to deal with the Catholic diocese of Cloyne because of concerns which had arisen there. The Government believes the work of the commission regarding the archdiocese of Dublin and its forthcoming report on the diocese of Cloyne will serve the primary purpose of establishing what happened in order that lessons can be learned.

While there has been a sea change in recent years in the way this issue is dealt with, there are no grounds for complacency. It is the duty of Government to ensure all institutions in the State are subject to the law of the State without exception and, above all, to the laws which protect children. The Government will do whatever is necessary to ensure the old ways of responding to allegations and evidence of child sexual abuse will never return and the ways in which we handle them will be continually updated in the light of developing best practice.

It is correct that in this debate I have concentrated on the State's response in this area but the primary focus of the report is on the failings of the church authorities. No Government in a democracy can or should prescribe how a church should be run but we can ensure that all institutions, including the church, are subject to the laws of the State. During the debate I am sure Senators will stand firm in their determination that this must be the case.

Photo of Eugene ReganEugene Regan (Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I thank the Minister for a comprehensive commentary on the report. I take issue with him referring to mischievous and baseless political points scoring because even that comment is misplaced.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context

The Minister could be right but he did not tell us what it was.

Photo of Eugene ReganEugene Regan (Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context

The central issue in the Murphy report is the institutional response to suspicions, complaints and knowledge of child sexual abuse between 1975 and 2004. It addressed the response of both the church and State authorities. In the light of the comments in the report about the role of the Garda, the health boards and the HSE, one is entitled draw to the attention of the Minister, the Minister of State with responsibility for children and the Government how these matters should be dealt with and the appropriate institutional response. Where there is a failure in this response, it is legitimate to raise these issues with the Government. The Minister should not be so sensitive where he is called to account regarding failings of the justice system in this regard.

The Murphy report is exemplary in its thoroughness, erudition and sensitivity to the issue of child sexual abuse. It is thorough in its analysis of the internal workings of church law, canon law and the interaction between church and State authorities. In particular, it lifts the veil of secrecy on the church and gives us an insight into the workings and interconnection between the different authorities within it. While the terms of reference did not provide for the commission to determine whether there were cases of child abuse, the detailed analysis of individual cases highlights the systemic failure not only of the church but also of the State authorities.

The report concludes:

The Commission has no doubt that clerical child sexual abuse was covered up by the Archdiocese of Dublin and other Church authorities over much of the period covered by the Commission's remit. The structures and rules of the Catholic Church facilitated that cover-up. The State authorities facilitated the cover-up by not fulfilling their responsibilities to ensure that the law was applied equally to all and allowing the Church institutions to be beyond the reach of the normal law enforcement processes. The welfare of children, which should have been the first priority, was not even a factor to be considered in the early stages. Instead the focus was on the avoidance of scandal and the preservation of the good name, status and assets of what the institution regarded as its most important members - the priests.

The report refers to the suggestion by church leaders that they were on a learning curve regarding child sexual abuse and it points to the professional qualifications and academic background of the church leaders during the relevant period. It also points to the prescriptions in Canon Law and the long-established church procedures to deal with the issue of child sexual abuse by clergy. It is on that basis that Ms Justice Murphy did not find it credible for the church to invoke ignorance of the law as an excuse in those circumstances, but in the public mind there was a learning curve. It is only in latter years that we have come to appreciate the full horror of this vice in society and in our institutions.

The Minister alluded to the level of awareness, which has increased dramatically since the 1990s, but it took a long time. The report refers to social workers who were on the front line dealing with these issues. They told the commission that awareness and knowledge of child sexual abuse did not emerge in Ireland until the early 1980s. In the early stages of the period under examination, the deference paid by gardaí at the highest level of the force to the church is highlighted, as they did not consider that complaints of child sexual abuse fell within their remit. They felt it was more appropriate for the complaints to be dealt with by the church. It was only after the "Prime Time" edition, "Cardinal Secrets", in October 2002 that a major co-ordinated investigation into this issue took place headed by the domestic violence sexual assault investigation unit of the Garda.

The issue of delay was a factor in the approach to prosecution by the Director of Public Prosecutions which indicated a lack of appreciation and understanding of the issue. The report outlines the evolution of thinking in regard to delay. There was the issue of the dominance of the abuser over the child affected and the report examined why the child would not make a complaint. The test was recently determined by the Supreme Court that it was an issue of whether there could be a fair trial of the person accused. It has taken a long time for all of the institutions to fully appreciate the horror and carnage created by this abuse. I refer to its insidiousness and how difficult it is to tackle.

In its analysis of Canon Law a point emerges in the report that is most telling, namely, that when they complained, the main concern of the parents of an abused child was that other children would not be subject to the same abuse. That their complaint was not followed up, given credence or treated seriously by the church is what they found most offensive.

It also shows a lack of precision in Canon Law on this issue, a lack of knowledge among church leaders of the provisions of Canon Law on the issue but, most insidiously, the secrecy and confidentiality that go to the core of the problem. This is the need to protect the institution and bind the complainant to secrecy and confidentiality. Some light emerges in this chapter with Archbishop Connell being one of the first bishops in the world to order trials of priests under Canon Law. There is also light at the end of the tunnel in respect of the procedures, albeit adopted belatedly, beginning with the framework document in 1996. However, the failure of the church to implement its Canon Law rules in this period is extraordinary. The focus was always on the accused. In many cases, where allegations were made against a priest, he was allowed to continue in his ministry, even though he had made admissions of guilt. I refer to the cynical way in which many complaints were treated such as that of the mother who complained and was told the complaint would have to come from her daughter if it was to be taken up by the church. The report methodically analyses the respective roles of individual bishops and archbishops. There is significant change over the period and the general conclusion is that, with few exceptions, they behaved very poorly in dealing with complaints. That changed in latter years with new procedures, the effect of legal action and public condemnation.

The report highlights the role of State authorities, the Garda Síochána, the health boards and the HSE. Many lessons can be learned in this regard. The report points out that Garda investigations into various complaints were sometimes comprehensive and at other times, cursory. Many of the complainants who gave evidence to the commission praised the professionalism and courtesy encountered when making complaints to the Garda Síochána specialist child sex abuse unit at Harcourt Street, Dublin. The commission notes that investigations carried out by the unit are generally well conducted. It suggests the unit should have responsibility for investigating all child abuse complaints because of the expertise it has developed. That is a recommendation that should be taken up.

The report points to the need to clarify the role of the HSE in respect of non-family abuse and set out its powers to perform that role. These issues must be addressed by the Minister and the Government.

The Stay Safe programme deals with inappropriate sexual contact and secrecy and is designed to help children to be more aware of the possibilities of interference and abuse. I bring to the attention of the Government the reaction of the church to the introduction of the programme and the fact that it is not being implemented in all schools. It is only implemented in 85% of schools.

I refer to the report on children in institutional care and the 2008 care inspection report of the Health Information and Quality Authority. This shows various elements of the system where the necessary safeguards are not in place. We can talk about the past and the hurt and suffering of those affected but we must ensure we learn lessons from the information contained in the report. We must introduce the necessary protections in State institutions, not just within church institutions.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

It is with a heavy heart that I speak about the horror story emerging from the Murphy report. It is certainly not bedtime reading. Having studied the Ryan report and now this report some months later, it is very sad that our society has come to this point. Regrettably, this has been ongoing for most of my lifetime. I recall a tale told to me as a student in 1973 or 1974 by a visiting medical expert from the mid-west in the United States. He was visiting west Cork because of his Irish connections. Over a turf fire, he related to my late father the story of a clerical person who had gone to Chicago or Boston to seek guidance or assistance following the abuse of a young lad. He did not say it in a condescending way because he was a Catholic. However, my father would not believe it and went to his grave believing it had been a concocted story because - God be good to the man - he saw no wrong. He said the rosary every night. I was 17 or 18 years old at the time and it resonates with me that if this information was available at the time, what we see documented in the report also happened in the 1960s and 1970s. It is appalling.

The response of the archbishop, bishops and others concerned - I will not name individuals - must have a greater impact. Therefore, more needs to be done within the church. I said on the Order of Business the other day that structural damage had been done to the church as an institution - that is my deeply held view. I am not saying I am a great Christian or Catholic; I still have deep faith but this damage will have to be repaired. However, the State can only do so much. Ireland was known internationally as the island of saints and scholars. If people read the Ryan report, this and further reports which no doubt will be published, it will take future generations a long time to have the same trust and faith in the church that people had in the past.

There was a big furore over the incident involving the then Bishop of Kerry but that was petty compared to cases in which there was interference with children.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context

It was.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

Such interference is appalling. I am aware of priests who left the church and subsequently married and I laud them for their honestly and integrity. They were probably not happy in their chosen careers.

I reiterate another point that I made on the Order of Business the other day, namely, that while a small percentage of clerics were involved in the abuse, there were hundreds, probably thousands, of good priests and nuns during the past 40 to 50 years who did extremely good work. However, all of that work was in vain because, as Judge Murphy clearly sets out in the report, in certain instances there was a cover-up of such abuse within the church which failed to respond. Nobody was defrocked or lost his job. Sometimes clerics who had abused were moved from one parish to another. That is appalling. There must be a response, whether from the Irish Catholic Church - we cannot broaden it to include any other denomination - the Vatican or the Pope.

I extend sincere sympathy to the young people who were abused, sometimes habitually, in the nastiest fashion for many years. This has to stop and we must ensure it never again happens as what happened was appalling. In a statement on 26 November the Minister of State, Deputy Barry Andrews, said:

Many perpetrators of abuse felt insulated from investigation. Even in cases where information was relayed to An Garda Síochána and the Health Board, there was an assumption that their elevated position in society would protect against criminal prosecution. Access to contemporaneous and accurate information relating to allegations of abuse was patently absent.

This is an appalling admission in 2009 and we hope it will never happen again. No law, whether it be State law, Canon Law, European law or conventions, can supersede the right of children to protection.

I chaired the all-party Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Constitution which examined family issues. Its initial report on the rights of children was initiated by the former Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, when he wrote to my predecessor on the committee, now Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, in 2000. Obviously, he had received information that was a source of concern. Having trawled through documents, brought in various groups, received evidence and listened to various experts, we concluded in that report that the rights of children supported within the family, as enshrined in the Constitution, were not adequate. A special committee has since been established to consider a constitutional amendment on the rights of children. I have spoken to the Minister of State, Deputy Barry Andrews, as late as today, who has informed me that on or around 16 December he will launch a report on the work of the committee. If a constitutional referendum to enhance the rights of children in Irish law is needed, so be it. I have no doubt such a constitutional referendum would be very well received, that we would have the highest turnout of voters in decades and that the referendum would be carried.

There is a view that this issue may be dealt with adequately by legislation. I have not read every word of the Murphy report but I have read chapters and paragraphs of it and will reread some of them. I have also studied the Ryan report. A legislative response to this issue is not adequate. Constitutional protection is needed to safeguard the rights of children who are the most vulnerable in our society. Various rights are enshrined in the Constitution, including property rights, the right to receive support and an education. However, all of these rights pale into insignificance when compared to the rights of children.

I come from a large family and, thankfully, we were insulated from such abuse. When we read about the abuse of vulnerable children, someone has to cry, "Stop." The whistle blown by Judge Murphy in her report and in the Ryan report, among others, should have been blown many years ago. The Minister of State, Deputy Barry Andrews, referred to successive Governments having neglected, perhaps not in a cynical or planned fashion, the role and rights of children. If anything is to come from this debate, the Government must move on its own to deal with the issue and let the church, in its independent fashion, deal with its own rotten apples. There are rotten apples in the church but the archbishop, in whom I have great faith and for whom I have great admiration, has faced the music knowing about the tsunami that was about to hit him. Even at Vatican level, the Pope must give a more concerted response. What must emerge is that the rights of children in our society in 2009 are paramount. Whether the issue is addressed through a certain framework, measures to ensure the protection of children must be upgraded to such an extent that what has happened in our society must never again be allowed to happen.

I suppose we are all to blame, cumulatively, in some way. We appear to think there are elite groups in society, in this instance, clerics. As an aside, I recall, as a young solicitor in the late 1970s or early 1980s, that if one wanted a medical expert to give evidence in a medical negligence case, one could not find anybody in the State who would give such evidence against a colleague, even in instances involving appalling negligence. One had to go at great expense to the United Kingdom or the United States to find a medical expert. On many occasions it proved so difficult that the case was dropped. That used to gall me as a budding lawyer. Whatever has to be done in 2009 must be done.

I acknowledge that the Murphy report finds that the Garda was not without blame but I welcome the Commissioner's response in appointing a senior Garda officer to carry out investigations. I wish him luck in that trawl. It baffles me-----

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context

Most of the gardaí involved behaved well.

Photo of Pat MoylanPat Moylan (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

No interruptions, please.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I find it difficult to understand the reason no one has been jailed as a result of these abuses, although I accept some of the culprits may be in their graves. There has been talk of war crimes and so on. Some of the material contained in the Murphy and Ryan reports is almost as serious as what took place in a different fashion in Bosnia and other places in recent times. The Murphy report emphasises the absolute denial, arrogance and the cover-up involving several archbishops in the archdiocese of Dublin during the past 30 years. As a Christian, it is a source of great concern for me and the facts should be uncovered. I have spoken about the matter in this and the other House on several occasions.

There have been State tribunals to deal with several issues but the tribunal system has been abused. In case anyone misinterprets my comments, in my lifetime there have been several notable and necessary tribunals, including that which investigated the Stardust disaster, in which there was significant loss of life. It was a worthy tribunal which was short and quick. Another tribunal of note was that led by Mr. Justice Costello which investigated the Whiddy Island disaster, in which 50 lives were lost. That tribunal cost the State very little money. I do not believe in the model of a State tribunal to investigate the bribing of officials or corruption in the planning process. However, if ever a tribunal was needed to examine child abuse, I would put it at No. 3 in my order of priorities. This is something the State and the Minister should consider.

The report examines the period from January 1975 to 2004 and offers a snapshot of what took place. It lends great credit to the work of Ms Justice Yvonne Murphy. The commission investigated allegations made against a sample of 46 priests from a total of 102 and against whom 320 claims or complaints had been made. Unfortunately, the stark reality is that the report is simply a snapshot of what took place. Although it does not please me to say this, I am of the view many victims were afraid to come forward and that some probably committed suicide or emigrated. What we have is a snapshot of an appalling episode in our history, of which I feel deeply ashamed as a citizen and father. As a result of the Ryan and Murphy reports, what happened must never be allowed to happen again. When the Minister of State, Deputy Barry Andrews, publishes the report which is imminent, I hope we will enshrine in the Constitution once and for all, such that it will last beyond our lifetimes, a clause to the effect that the abuse of children will never again be allowed to happen in the State. That is my wish and hope today.

4:00 am

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I welcome the Minister of State. I am sorry his colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, is not here but I am sure he will pass on what has been said in the House in his absence. I have spoken to the Minister about certain aspects of these cases in the past and found him to be someone who is sympathetic, intelligent and on whom I can rely to take up the matters raised by me and others.

I do not gloat about this issue. It is desperately sad and shaming for anyone who calls himself or herself a Christian of whatever denomination. I feel the greatest sympathy primarily but not only for the victims but also for the decent faithful - the ordinary, prayerful churchgoing people with a devotion to their church that has lasted for centuries. I feel really sorry for them because their faith has been diminished and weakened by the atrocious behaviour of the senior officers of their church both here and in Rome at the very highest level, to which this goes. I also feel really sorry for the good members of the religious - priests, nuns and brothers. I know of many, for whom this is most desperately painful. They will get the abuse on the street and very often this will happen to the decent ones, those who have sacrificed a life and lived the imposed life of celibacy. The imposition of celibacy is a grievous moral wrong committed against those who aspire to the priesthood. I have these feelings of sorrow. However, this was all too predictable.

In an early story, The Sisters, James Joyce isolated the entire issue and came to the same conclusions made in this report. It is the story of a priest with no vocation. Having discovered this and challenged his idea that God exists in the fundamental sense, he retreats from that discovery into a barren exploration and imposition on a child of the niceties of Canon Law. This is seen as the real violation of the child, even though there are suggestions of child abuse also. How prophetic was the mind of James Joyce 100 years ago to see this cancer at the heart of the church?

Just as in the case of Mr. Nixon, the difficulty does not lie simply in the commission of these acts. The real damage is being done to the church by the cover-up. In Nixon's case it was not the burglary but the cover-up. As grievous, dreadful, appalling and unforgivable as the violations of children's rights and innocence were, it is the cover-up that will be the long burning fuse that will do the damage, as well as the retreat to Canon Law which is club law. The rules of no church can supersede the laws of the State, nor should they. However, we know that actually they do and that they have done so, with the connivance of Governments of all hues, including those involving the Labour Party and Fine Gael.

I understand this is a practical matter and refer to the exemptions granted under equality legislation to all of the churches. This is an area in which the rights and welfare of children are handled. Repeatedly, in the recent months I have highlighted in the House how the rights of children were violated legally by the church because of this exemption. I put this directly to the Minister of State and call on him to take it back to his colleagues. If he does one thing, let him end the abuse of privilege and make the Minister's words uttered at the weekend real, when he stated no institution and no church was above the law of the land. That is the position as it should be but it is not the position as it stands.

Having read the report, will any Minister inform me if it is appropriate that, principally as a result of lobbying by reactionary elements within the Roman Catholic Church, the welfare of children under the Civil Partnership Bill, under discussion in the adjoining Chamber this very day, will once again be violated? I will vote against the Bill because it constitutes a further systematic, deliberate and knowing abuse of the rights, not of gay parents, but of children in the State. I call on the Government to clean up its act.

The report comes in three parts. The first sets out the parameters and investigates the implications of certain cases but does not go into the detail of particular cases. The examination of particular cases is outlined somewhat more in part 2, while part 3 is the appendix.

I refer to the manner in which complaints were dealt with by the church. The report dismisses completely and as laughable the idea that senior church people were on a learning curve. That myth is exploded. They knew very well the seriousness and the implications of what was happening. However, the only implications in which they were interested were those related to the avoidance of scandal, their reputation and the good name of the offending priests. How extraordinary is that? What good name did they have? They were also interested in the preservation of assets and set about looking for insurance. This tells us they knew well enough what was taking place. As they were cute enough to look for insurance, they knew bloody well something was going on. Every bishop's primary loyalty was to the church, which included taking out insurance to protect the assets of the church.

This was not unique to Ireland. It happened also in Boston in the United States of America, admittedly with the involvement of Irish personnel for the most part. The report of the Massachusetts attorney stated secrecy protected the institution at the expense of children. The report highlights some of the most appallingly savage ironies. For example, how many of the priests concerned were appointed to official positions in marriage tribunals? Does being involved in paedophilia, chronic alcoholism and serial adultery qualify these alleged celibates to serve on Catholic marriage tribunals and instruct unfortunate women on how to conduct their sexual lives? What is detailed in the report is astonishing. Bishop Kavanagh attempted to influence the Garda. I would have thought that to be a criminal offence. All through the report the trail runs back to Rome. The commission finds that the events it investigated happened because bishops were appointed not on the basis of their moral or intellectual authority but rather because of their doctrinal orthodoxy. In such circumstances, how could the outcome have been any different?

Some behaved comparatively well. Monsignor Stenson, for example, clearly, thoroughly and forensically examined and investigated matters brought to his attention. I accept that he may not have possessed the skills to deal with complainants but he certainly did his work well. The position is the same in respect of the Garda. However, I refute Senator O'Donovan's contention that the highest ranking officers acted well in dealing with these matters. These officers were useless and craven and reported to the archbishop. It should have been the other way around. Younger members of the force rebelled against this. I thank God for these individuals and their honesty, decency and courage. We are aware of how the church dealt with whistleblowers. I am sure the Minister of State, Deputy Moloney, will remember that remarkable man in Maynooth - I cannot recall his name - who blew the whistle on Monsignor Michael Ledwith. The bishops ganged up on him, effectively silenced him and then ran him off to some little bog hole. That is how people were dealt with when they told the truth.

There is work for the Oireachtas to do on this matter. The report indicates that the Child Care Act 1991 does not sufficiently clarify the powers and duties of the health authorities. I ask the Minister of State to make a note of this fact and ensure amending legislation is brought forward at once. The report also indicates that the families of victims behaved charitably towards priests and attempted to understand the difficulties experienced by the latter. However, neither the State nor the church lived up to its responsibilities.

Let us turn to Rome and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It is appalling that letters sent by the commission to the papal nuncio were ignored and that diplomatic matters of etiquette were identified as being more important and relevant than protecting children from serial rape. It is unfortunate and to the detriment of the church of Rome that it is both a state and a religion. My thinking is the same with regard to the Church of England. It is a mistake that the Queen of England is head of the latter. That is an historical nonsense and the Church of England would be better off without it. The papal nuncio is a diplomat and he should be called in by the relevant Minister. Serious questions arise about the functions of the embassy of a tiny and unrealistic state. The individual to which I refer is the head of that embassy's diplomatic corps in Ireland. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - formerly the Inquisition and previously presided over by Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI - and the papal nuncio have a great deal for which to answer.

The report identifies the patronage of 477 national schools as being among the functions of the Dublin archdiocese. That is a matter to which consideration must be given, particularly in view of the fact that taxpayers' money is allocated to such schools. The church can sack people who work in these schools if it does not approve of their lifestyles and such individuals have no legal recourse. Will the Minister of State reiterate what has been said to the effect that the church is not above the law in the State? I am of the view that it is most definitely above the law. Cardinal Connell who no doubt is a well meaning academic is quoted in the report as stating:

I think the Commission will have to accept that on my first meeting of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I took an oath that I would not reveal what was discussed at meetings of the Congregation and I will of course be as true to that oath as I am to the oath I have taken here.

Again, it is obvious that the rules of the church supersede those of the State.

There is the extraordinary situation where the guilt of priests was diminished if they were determined to be paedophiles. Such priests were treated well and sent to institutions of very doubtful repute where they were repackaged, returned and then sent to new parishes. Why have the names of the consultant psychiatrists who dealt with these individuals not been provided? I would like to know their identities rather than merely been informed that assessment or treatment was provided by the Granada Institute.

Let us consider the way priests took evidence from victims. In that context, a handwritten note attributed to a Fr. Dolan reads, "gain his knowledge/tell him nothing". In other words, the idea was to place victims at a disadvantage. There is also the matter of misprision of felony, a matter into which I will not go.

I refer to the case involving Mervyn Rundle. I previously referred to the concept of guardian ad litem, which I was responsible for having included in law. A guardian ad litem is someone who represents the interests of a child. This concept only came into play in one case, namely, that of Mervyn Rundle, in which a friend of the family represented that individual and his parents. The letter relating to this case which is contained in the report should be read by everyone, particularly the final accusatory paragraph in which the author lays it on the line in respect of what must be done.

Let us consider how Archbishop McQuaid dealt with the case of Fr. Edmondus who took photographs of the genital organs of nine year old girls. The archbishop thought Fr. Edmondus had displayed an understandable curiosity and innocence and, after all, all he was doing was taking photographs. How extraordinary. If one considers the case of Marie Collins, one can see how victims are patronised and treated like dirt. Cardinal Connell informed the commission that he did not remove Fr. Edmondus from his parish and that, "This gave rise to a lot of trouble from one of the victims." In other words, Ms Collins was a source of trouble and an inconvenience to the church. Contrast this with Archbishop McQuaid's understanding of the wonderment of Fr. Edmondus when looking at female genital organs, allegedly for the first time.

Let us consider another case, namely, that of Fr. Vidal who began a relationship with a girl aged 13 years but who denied the existence of such a relationship. There was a relationship and it continued until the girl turned 21 years. He was then laicised and married the girl. Their marriage eventually broke down and Fr. Vidal applied to the church to be readmitted. He was subsequently sent to a monastery and returned to the church. This would be astonishing if it were not established fact. Immediately after these events Bishop O'Mahony began to shred the relevant documents. If that is not an indication of guilt, I do not know what is.

If victims gave evidence to the church in respect of the matters to which the report of the commission relates, they were sworn to secrecy. They were then informed that if they broke their oath of secrecy, they would be excommunicated. That is one of the things which prevented people from going to the Garda.

Some of the events that occurred were laughable. Please God, let the spirit of Jonathan Swift appear and do justice to this stuff. One of the priests to whom the report refers was treated with Depo-Provera, a strong contraceptive which the church has banned and outlawed but which it used on its renegade priests because it had the effect of chemically castrating them. There is also the extraordinary business of priests, in the aftermath of their offences, being appointed to marriage tribunals, to work as chaplains with Alcoholics Anonymous and youth clubs. That is just appalling. The assessment of the commission is that the handling of the large number of allegations was nothing short of catastrophic.

I will conclude by making two final points. The first relates to another priest who had relationships with eight women in Africa, 26 in Ireland and three elsewhere. It is indicated in the report that full intercourse rarely took place - obviously what the church would describe as a form of unnatural intercourse occurred - and that contraceptives were always used. This relates to a member of the priesthood, the other members of which will probably be preaching against his actions on Sunday next.

My final point relates to the letter on pages 459 and 460 of the report which was written by a wonderful person who is not named. The man in question acted as a true Christian friend to Mervyn Rundle and his family. The entire letter is worth reading but the fourth point it contains is signal. It states, "That the Roman Catholic Church which claims to be the moral guardians of the people treat child abuse in such an off-hand manner calls into question the Church's ability to govern anything." I am saddened by it. I do not gloat or wish the extinction of the church which has a long and extraordinary history in this country. I commiserate with the faithful and the good priests but this institution must be ruthlessly examined. Every diocese must be scrutinised. We cannot do a patchwork examination. What about the other victims? Are they to be left in a limbo which will exist for them even though it has been theologically abolished by Rome?

It is a sad day but a good day that we have this report even with the gross insensitivity of the commission itself. I would like to say the following to it, and I hope it gets wind of it. Has it ever thought, or tried to imagine, not only what it is like to be a victim but to be a gay victim? It talked outrageous nonsense in regard to the case where a priest met a 15 year old youth in a gay club. He was poncing around parading himself as a chaplain to the gay community. The report said it would be very good to have a chaplain. It would not be after the abuse gay people have taken, including being called intrinsically disordered, objectively evil and a plague. That all came from the centre of the church and from Cardinal Ratzinger who sheltered some of these people who molested children. It would not be appropriate; it would be like having a Nazi on the Jewish council.

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Green Party)
Link to this: Individually | In context

In the last decade of the last century and in the first decade of this century, the totems of power and respectability in this country have crumbled. We have seen it happen in regard to our political and financial systems. In terms of religious structures, this report and others have undermined public confidence in those who portrayed themselves as being at the head of our society. As to whether this will be to our betterment going forward, we can only ensure it is by making sure all the information in regard to this tawdry and sordid history is brought to light. Every effort should be made to identify and help the victims.

The sad fact which this report, other reports and the need for other reports to be conducted reveals is that the rights of children were the last consideration, if considered at all, of those involved in these processes. It seems the prime consideration was the protection of an institution. If the aim was to protect an institution, it solidly failed in that policy goal because the institution is sadly discredited as a result of the activities described here, including the sordid acts committed on these children and the reprehensible behaviour which followed to ensure those who committed these acts were not brought before the law and made to account for their actions.

The numbers are frightening. The commission received complaints in regard to 183 priests and worked with a sample of 46 priests against whom complaints were made in regard to 320 children. As Senator O'Donovan said, this a snapshot of, or the tip of the iceberg in regard to, an activity that existed in our society, to which a blind eye was turned and about which nothing was said for decades. All of us should share in the shame.

The State authorities, whether through a lack of resources or compliance, ensured some of those guilty of these heinous crimes never saw justice. That is something with which the Legislature must deal not only in this debate but in terms of how we frame systems in future legislation to ensure it never happens again.

It was interesting that of the 46 priests examined in the sample group, only 11 pleaded guilty or have been found guilty in the courts. Some 35 of the sample group have not been brought before the courts. Of the complaints received in regard to the other 150 or so priests, we have no knowledge as to how many of them have gone through the system but we can presume it is a similar proportion.

There are many sad and all too human stories in this report. The one which struck me was the story of Peter McCloskey who was an abuse victim of a priest who was brought to the archdiocese of Dublin from Australia. The church authorities in Dublin were aware that the priest had been engaged in sex abuse crimes in Australia. As one of that priest's victims, Peter McCloskey was not only treated appallingly by the priest but subsequently by the State. He suffered severe psychiatric conditions as a result of his rape and became a victim of self-harm. He was in and out of many psychiatric institutions, was given a great deal of medicine and was subjected to electro convulsive therapy treatment. This was all during a time when few, if any, believed his story. Peter McCloskey subsequently committed suicide. How a society can stand over a situation in which a person was abused as a child, went through the mental health system and was repeatedly failed by society is something for which the individuals named in this report must account and take action on. It is not enough, as some have said, that they have explained their actions.

The Legislature cannot say whether people should serve in particular ecclesiastical offices but we can say they have no right to be considered civic leaders on the basis of their behaviour in holding that office. Named individuals in this report need to look at their consciences and at their behaviour in regard to how they conducted their offices on behalf of the Catholic church.

I will not name people or engage in the blame game that goes along with this because the report speaks for itself and names people and identifies circumstances. Moral actions should follow the publication of the report and the public debate on it.

The general situation in regard to child sex abuse not only as it affects the Catholic church but how we, as a society, deal with it is still sadly deficient. This country is falling far behind in terms of the ability to identify its incidence and deal with victims and offer ongoing support. We may learn lessons from a report such as this but we can take no pride from what has gone on before and even less pride from what we are failing to do now.

If anything is to be achieved from the commissioning of reports such as this and the diligent way it has been put together by Ms Justice Yvonne Murphy, it must be that the recommendations are acted on quickly. The Government has given commitments in regard to the Ryan report. Whatever necessary follow through action is needed on foot of the report into the archdiocese of Dublin should be taken.

Senator Norris mentioned that since we have the Ryan report, knowledge of the situation in the diocese of Ferns and diocese of Cloyne, we need to gather information on where this has occurred elsewhere in the country. Few of us believe this was not a deeply ingrained problem. We can no longer go along with the notion that this level of incidence existed in society at large.

It is clear from the numbers involved and the way claims were managed subsequently in terms of support for perpetrators and near indifference to victims that a severe imbalance exists in the institution of the Catholic church. Sadly, this was a situation in which the authorities of this State were all too complicit.

I hope the legislation introduced over the past decade will address our sense of shame by preventing the recurrence of these heinous deeds. We must also treat the many thousands of child victims of abuse who are in real need of support with more than the indifference and ignorance to which they were previously subjected by the State. We must do whatever we can as a society to prevent abuse in the future and never again allow a culture of silence to develop. No balanced society would tolerate these deeds and we can only pray that we have finally put a close to this chapter of our history.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I welcome the publication of the Murphy report, which at last shines a light into a dark corner of our recent history. The report examined the period between 1975 and 2004 and its recommendations refer to ongoing issues of which we must take account. I commend Ms Justice Yvonne Murphy and her commission on the report's excellence and clarity of language. I am glad we have the opportunity to debate the report's findings, which have already been subject to intense debate.

As the Minister of State noted, the first reaction of anyone reading the report is revulsion at the appalling abuses perpetrated against children by priests who were in a position of trust and moral authority. As with the Ryan report, I found it very distressing to read about the litany of brutal abuse. I pay particular tribute to the survivors of abuse for their bravery in coming forward to the commission. The public interventions from Andrew Madden, Marie Collins and Colm O'Gorman were the catalyst for exposing the abuses and preventing their recurrence. However, the commission acknowledged that many victims or survivors could not be identified.

All of us feel angry that for decades priests were allowed to perpetrate their appalling crimes with impunity. Other speakers have referred to the small proportion of abusers who were convicted. At best, the church turned a blind eye to their activities and at worst it facilitated them over several decades. We should condemn the failure of both church and State authorities to deal adequately with the horrific sexual abuses against children.

I will speak briefly about the findings of the report before addressing the lessons we have learned for the future. The number 46 is referred to frequently because that is the figure for the sample of priests investigated by the commission. However, the commission found that complaints were made against a total of 183 priests in the Dublin diocese. To the commission's knowledge, complaints against the aforementioned 46 priests were made by approximately 320 children but as it could not be sure that it had information on all cases of abuse even that limited sample of priests may have abused other children. The chapter of the report dealing with the convicted serial sex abuser, William Carney, notes that while the commission knows about 32 complaints, there is clear evidence of additional cases. These are shocking figures. One priest admitted to abusing more than 100 children and another accepted that he had committed abuse on a fortnightly basis over a period of 25 years.

It is no wonder this volume of child sexual abuse by clergy was described by a church source as a tsunami of abuse and an earthquake hidden from view beneath the surface. However, the commission took care to point out that the abuse was not hidden from those in the know within the church. Sexual abuse allegations against clerics were known about for several decades before the church began to take appropriate action. The culture of cover up only began to break down when brave individuals began to come forward in the mid-1990s. The report set out a brief history of sexual abuse in the church. Sexual abuse against children has been a delict under canon law since time immemorial and a 2,000 year record of biblical, papal and Holy See statements reveals knowledge of clerical child sex abuse. In Ireland, Archbishop McQuaid dealt with allegations of child sex abuse against priests in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1987, the Archdiocese of Dublin took out insurance cover on compensation for claims even though it was officially in denial. It was not until 1995 that the archdiocese provided the names of priests against whom allegations were made by the Garda and it only established its child protection service in 2003. All the archbishops who served during the period covered by the report knew of the existence of complaints, as did many auxiliary bishops, officials and priests. The vast majority simply chose to turn a blind eye.

Key among the report's findings is the culture of secrecy that prevailed within the Catholic church and its obsessive concern with avoiding scandal. The report states: "Complainants were often met with denial, arrogance and cover-up and with incompetence and incomprehension in some cases". This response caused many more children to be abused, in some cases over several decades, not only in Ireland but also as far afield as Japan and Africa.

We need to make progress on three areas in particular if we are to ensure this abuse never happens again in any institution of State or church. As legislators, we need to identify and address gaps in the child protection legislation and the Constitution. The Minister described the legislative progress being made to ensure that soft information about suspicions of child abuse can be shared. However, he did not address the need to legislate for the mandatory reporting of child sex abuse. He referred to the offence created by the Criminal Justice Act 2006, section 176 of which provides that it is an offence to recklessly endanger a child by causing or permitting him or her to be left in a situation which creates a substantial risk of serious harm or sexual abuse. That is an important defence which I very much welcome but it relates only to risk subsequent to 2006. It is not aimed at non-disclosure where there is no longer a risk. There is a gap in our law where misprision of felony was abolished and the offence under the Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998, section 9 of which covers the withholding of information on serious offences, does not cover offences causing sexual injury. As a result, we are in the rather bizarre situation where it is an offence under emergency legislation for a teacher, for example, to fail to report to a garda his or her belief a child has been seriously assaulted in the home but it is not an offence for him or her to fail to report a suspicion that a child is being sexually abused. We need to review this. There does not seem to be a mechanism for prosecuting those whose turning of a blind eye or negligence caused the continuation of abuse of so many children.

We need to enshrine children's rights in the Constitution from which they are notably absent. We need to ensure the HSE improves its record-keeping procedures. Chapter 6 of the report is particularly critical of the way in which it kept its files by reference to the name of the complainant rather than that of the abuser, thereby making it impossible to cross-reference and ensure it knew how many abusers there were. The Minister of State referred to the need to fill 270 social work posts to ensure implementation of HSE guidelines and child protection principles. That is very important. I am glad to see his commitment to this and promise of legislative backing for the Children First guidelines. We need to see this happen.

As citizens, we must consider the need for accountability and the taking of responsibility. Members of the Catholic church must consider how the culture of secrecy and cover-up was allowed to develop. There may be issues of celibacy connected with women priests but that is a matter for church members. It is valid for us, as legislators, to consider the role of persons in authority in the church who also have important roles in civic structures. Where bishops, for example, have a significant role to play in the secular and civic institutions of the State, as patrons of national schools, politicians are entitled to say they should resign where they have been found guilty of inexcusable behaviour, in the cover-up of the activities of priests who abused, thereby facilitating the continuation of the abuse.

I note the commission's reference to the very prominent role of the church in Irish life. In paragraph 1.90 it states it may be that the very prominent role that the church has played in Irish life is the very reason abuses by a minority of its members were allowed to go unchecked. A culture of deference persisted because of the prominent role the church played. We now see the remnants of this. The priests who were named as abusers filled roles that crossed between the church and the civic authorities. Two of those named as abusers - Ivan Payne being one of the most heinous - were chaplains at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin. The bishops who were implicated by having known of and dealt badly with the abuse are patrons of national schools, 477 of which are in the archdiocese of Dublin.

We need to consider the bigger role the Catholic Church has played and continues to play in our civic institutions and need to move away from a situation where a church which operated above the civil law and its own Canon Law in which child sex abuse was always a crime retains its prominent and privileged role. As a secular state and with the Oireachtas as the parliamentary system in a democratic republic, we need to take responsibility for our civic institutions, particularly schools and hospitals. There is an enormous problem within the national school system. Over 3,000 of our 3,300 national schools are run by the Catholic church, although they are State-funded. Senator Norris spoke about the exemption granted in the equality legislation which enables schools to discriminate on the basis of preserving their ethos. It also allows schools to discriminate on the basis of religion when they accept children as pupils, which is another problem.

At a conference on Catholic primary education in contemporary Ireland held last May Bishop Donal Murray noted:

In the absence of a local alternative, parents may have no choice but to send their children to a Catholic school. This can cause difficulties for them and indeed for the school ... If the family find the Catholic ethos of the school unacceptable, however, there does not seem to be any obvious solution ... If withdrawal from religious instruction is not enough, then it seems that one would have to acknowledge that this kind of school is simply not suitable for that family.

Bishop Murray recognised and acknowledged that parents who did not wish their child to be brought up in the Catholic faith would have no alternative but to send their child to that Catholic school and that the child would be exposed to religious instruction throughout the school day. His admission that this means that "this kind of school is simply not suitable for that family" is extraordinary, yet it represents the truth that in this so-called republic we cannot offer children what the Constitution states we must offer them, the right to be educated in a way that is not in violation of the parents' conscience and lawful preference. Article 44 enshrines the right of the child to attend a State-funded school without receiving religious instruction. We need to examine this much bigger issue because it relates to the culture of deference that has persisted for so long in which the Catholic church has held a privileged position in Irish society. From this position its members have operated with arrogance and contempt for the laws of the State and enabled known abusers in many cases to continue abusing, causing horrific damage to so many children for so long.

I welcome the Minister of State with special responsibility for children who has just come into the House.

The final chapter of the report makes for especially distressing reading. It describes the appalling impact the abuse had on the lives of so many of the children involved and their families. Of Marie Collins, one of the bravest of the victims, who came forward in a very lonely campaign to expose levels of abuse, it states: "After years spent trying to get her Church to deal openly and truthfully with the challenge posed to it by the scandal of child sexual abuse she has concluded that within the institutional Church there has been no change of heart, only a change of strategy". Listening to bishops trying to cover and defend their positions and to the Taoiseach in refusing to condemn the contempt with which the Vatican treated the commission, one is struck by Marie Collins' words. There may not have been a change of heart. I very much hope there has and that our State structures have changed from the culture of turning a blind eye and of blind obedience and loyalty to a church that was and is often rigid and unforgiving to those who transgressed its doctrines such as persons who used contraception, gay people and women who had abortions, yet took a very different approach to its own members who for so long were guilty of these most heinous crimes against children.

Photo of Fiona O'MalleyFiona O'Malley (Progressive Democrats)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I welcome the Minister of State. First, I pay tribute to the victims who have had the courage to come forward and had to endure not only the abuse in the first instance but the subsequent denial and cover-up. As Senator Norris said, the other people whom it is important to remember are members of the church who remain faithful to the greater good of the church rather than the institution as it is. I think particularly of my own grandmother who had, as Senator Bacik described it, something of a blind faith believing priests could do no wrong. I am sure she was typical of many. Were she alive today she would be horrified at how the church has conducted itself, particularly in respect of the most vulnerable.

The report makes for depressing and disturbing reading. I pay tribute to the commission for its extremely thorough work, especially on issues such as canon law. This is the third report to be published on the sexual abuse of children. The one thing that struck me on reading this report was plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. We read the same thing in the Ferns report many years ago. I am depressed somewhat by the responses, particularly the response of the church. I agree with what Senator Bacik said about the contempt shown by the papal nuncio, the Vatican and the Pope to this State inquiry. The papal nuncio was a bit touchy about the diplomatic niceties and whether the appropriate channels were used, but the bigger issue was the contempt he and the Vatican have shown to a State inquiry.

I have always found the existence of the Vatican State to be something of an aberration. Senator Norris made reference to this when he asked whether it was a religion or a state. The conduct of the papal nuncio on this issue is disturbing, as more cover up is involved. The hideous sex crimes committed against vulnerable children were one vile thing, but what is truly heinous is the nature of the cover up on the part of the Catholic church. The papal nuncio has retreated into diplomatic cover, and that is deeply regrettable.

The response has also been regrettable. This morning I spoke to a friend who is a priest, and he is of exactly the same mind, which I thought was refreshing. He is an exemplary priest, and it is good to see that in the church. He works in impoverished communities, both at home and abroad. He is very aware of the shortcomings of human nature and is very compassionate, yet he looks at the church in which he believes and how it has dealt with the crimes it has discovered. He is looking for guidance from within his own church, but it is sadly lacking. The choice of phrase by some of the bishops mentioned in the report is that they will examine their conscience on what they should do. The fact that it has taken them this long to look at their conscience shows that their conscience does not tell them the difference between what is right and what is wrong, or what is appropriate. This speaks volumes of the church, but that is a matter for the church. However, what should be of our concern is the fact that so many of our educational institutions are run by religious orders.

I would hate to be classed as somebody who is here to kick the church when it is down, because we need to recognise the good work done by the church, including educating most of us in this country. However, it is time for a modern republic finally to separate the church and the State. The State was also culpable in its collusion with this cover up, but this separation between church and State most occur, particularly in educational institutions. Our Constitution provides for people to be educated in whatever faith they wish. We are not able to carry that out and the majority of our educational establishments are Catholic, and that should end. Responsibility for education should go back to the State. We should have a lay education system and overcome all these problems with educating people in a certain faith. It is time we made the majority of national schools and secondary schools lay.

Has the Catholic church got the capacity to change and do what is necessary? I speak with a level of compassion for Desmond Connell and the problems with which he found himself dealing. These are detailed on page 9 of the report. The Catholic church is conflicted. It has a loyalty to itself and its bishops require this loyalty above all else. The religious orders consider themselves to be above the law. That is where we as a State cannot trust them to observe basic civil law. Page 9 reveals how tortured the archbishop is when dealing with the issue:

It is clear that Archbishop Connell remained troubled by the requirement of secrecy. In 2002, he allowed the Gardaí access to the archdiocesan files. The decision to do that, he told the Commission, "created the greatest crisis in my position as Archbishop" because he considered it conflicted with his duty as a bishop, to his priests.

The archbishop went on to state how he thought he was betraying his oath. This is a man of enormous faith and we can see he wants to maintain that faith to his church, but what about when it is in conflict to the basic laws of the State?

Children are good at knowing the difference between right and wrong, because they get it drummed into them at an early age. They have great clarity in their innocence about what is right and wrong. The archbishop, a very learned man, is tormented about his duty to the law of the church or the law of the nation. We have to be clear about this and we should dwell on it, because we expect the church authorities to be equal before the law, but they do not see it that way. Their loyalty is to something else other than the State. To a certain extent, this could be described as subversive. Reading the report, I began to think that the church was behaving in a subversive manner. There was some collusion with the Garda Síochána, as extraordinary deference was entertained.

I agree with what Senator Norris said about ending the exclusion of church organisations from the equality legislation. If we are equal before the law, we need to say that. When this debate concludes, I feel we should have a minute's silence for the memory of the people who were victims and who suffered these appalling sex crimes, which were compounded by the cover up on behalf of the church. Senator Boyle referred to the people who are no longer with us because they were so tortured that they took their own lives. We need to give those people a moment's reflection. I ask that the House hold a minute's silence at the conclusion of the debate so that we reflect on the courage of those people.

5:00 am

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I certainly support the suggestion of Senator O'Malley in that regard. It would show some mark of respect to the people who have taken their lives as a result of the child abuse we have learned about, not alone at the hands of the priests in the Archdiocese of Dublin, and also remind us of all the other aspects of child abuse of which we have learned in other reports such as the Ferns and Ryan reports.

The shocking depravity and scale of abuse which has been revealed in the Murphy report is deeply disturbing, and all who turned a blind eye and were not prepared to stand up and be counted when children were systematically abused should hang their heads in shame and beg God's forgiveness for their inaction. Needless to say, any bishop or priest who did not do everything in his power to help the victims of this vile abuse should step aside immediately in an effort to cleanse the church and restore some confidence for the bewildered, confused and angry congregations nationwide. Nothing less is acceptable if the church wants any chance of redeeming itself in the eyes of its own congregations, and this basic requirement must happen. As other speakers have said, there should be no considering of their positions or awaiting the response of their fellow priests or parishioners - they should go, and go now, in the interests of the church which they profess to represent.

The church from its highest office must grasp the seriousness of what has been revealed and must act decisively now. I have my doubts whether it realises the seriousness of what has been revealed in the Murphy report, based on the response, or non-response, of the papal nuncio. I am surprised the Minster for Foreign Affairs has not asked the papal nuncio to come in and explain his non-co-operation with the commission. After all, he is a diplomat. He should be requested to give some explanation of his non-action in this area.

We have witnessed the Ferns report, the Ryan report and, now, the Murphy report into the Dublin Archdiocese. It is my fervent wish that each and every diocese in the country should be examined and some closure given to the victims. Others who failed to act or may have been involved in any cover-up should be exposed also. There are many bishops who would welcome a full examination of their diocese to bring some closure for the good, decent priests and bishops of the country.

The bravery of those like Andrew Madden, Marie Collins and many others who stood up to the institution which is the church is absolutely extraordinary. For all their sakes, we must ensure that not only can this never happen again but also that the State takes control of the protection of children. It should not be left to any church or institution; it is the State's job, and nothing should stop the State from doing it.

"I feel physically ill at the behaviour of my clerical colleagues" - these were the words of Fr. Brian D'Arcy, whose interview on Newstalk was reported in last weekend's Sunday Independent. His words echoed the feelings, thoughts and shame expressed by the vast majority of excellent priests who work, day in and day out, for their parishioners. All priests and bishops cannot be painted with the one brush. All religious congregations were painted with the one brush after the Ryan report yet only a small percentage of congregations were responsible for the savage abuse meted out to innocent children under their control. I spoke to several people from other congregations such as the Ursulines. They were not involved in any of the abuse referred to in the Ryan report but they felt they were all painted with the one brush. It is only fair to point out that all priests and bishops cannot be painted in the same way.

Fr. D'Arcy also made the point that when a priest wanted to get married to a woman, the church had no problem throwing him out of the priesthood, yet paedophiles were protected and moved from parish to parish to continue their abuse of children. The Vatican could say, as canon law actively states, that all priests who have been involved in paedophilia activity should immediately be laicised or defrocked - call it what one likes - so they can never possibly act or go out in the shadow of being holy again. This can be done, so what is preventing the Vatican from doing it? It cannot be allowed to continue, and I say this as a practising catholic, although not as good a one as I would wish.

As we speak, State agencies fail to provide children with the protection to which they are rightly entitled. It is Fianna Fáil-led Governments which have been in power for 20 of the last 22 years, and it is they which are responsible for the currently dysfunctional child care and protection system. In the year ended 31 December 2008, out of 24,668 reports of children at risk made to the HSE, only 15,364 were assessed and 9,304 reports of children at risk were neither assessed nor investigated. This is a damning indictment on the Minister of State and the Government. Since 2000, over 20 children under the care of the health boards or the HSE have died. No statutory independent review system of deaths of children in care exists, despite being called for by my party and the Ombudsman for Children.

The Murphy commission report states "the HSE does not properly record cases of child sexual clerical abuse" and that the current Child Care Act "does not sufficiently clarify the powers and duties of health authorities" with regard to child protection. The Government needs to explain what action it intends to take to address these issues raised in the report. For a start, it should give an absolute commitment to hold the required referendum in 2010 to give express constitutional recognition to the rights of the child, and to set the constitutional standard required to ensure the State, State agencies and the courts, when called upon, provide to children the protection to which they are entitled. It is this type of concrete Government action that is now required. We need action rather than words.

Let me return to the Murphy commission report and some of the points raised, which are as follows. The Archdiocese did not implement its own canon law rules and did its best to avoid any application of the law of the State, despite a number of those involved being canon and civil lawyers. Auxiliary bishops assigned priests to parishes without any reference to child sex abuse issues. The archdiocese was preoccupied with the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the church and the preservation of its assets. No more damning an indictment of the archdiocese could be delivered. The protection of children, respect and common decency in investigating complaints from heartbroken mothers and families were consigned to the scrap heap and child abusers were allowed continue their vile acts with the protection of church authorities.

It is only fair to compliment Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who has co-operated fully with the commission and opened all the files, which is in marked contrast to the despicable role played by his predecessors. The actions of the Garda came under scrutiny in the report as well and it was distressing to learn that a number of very senior members of the force, including a commissioner in 1960, clearly regarded priests as being outside their remit. The examples of gardaí reporting complaints to the archdiocese instead of investigating them was despicable and great credit is due to the action of many junior members of the force who carried out their duties in an exemplary manner which was in keeping with the values and principles of An Garda Síochána. I am glad the current Garda Commissioner has appointed a deputy commissioner to examine all aspects of this report and I hope that report will be clear, truthful and factual as is the Murphy report.

The victims of abuse deserve this at the very least. There should be no cover-up or protection of senior members of church and State. There should be honesty and transparency. Justice must not only be done but it must be seen to be done, and if this means amending legislation on the Statute of Limitations to facilitate victims of clerical abuse making appropriate claims of compensation, then this must be done also. The ball is in the Minister's court and that of the church. I hope we will see action rather than words.

Photo of Labhrás Ó MurchúLabhrás Ó Murchú (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I would like to acknowledge the steadying influence the Minister of State, Deputy Barry Andrews, has had in turbulent times. Never has a semblance of stability been more necessary than now.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

Hear, hear.

Photo of Labhrás Ó MurchúLabhrás Ó Murchú (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

All of us serving in public life are used to challenges and in many debates in this Chamber, we have almost been exhilarated that we have had a challenge because we have a particular belief or vision that we like to put forward. Anybody who reads this report would have to admit that it weighs very heavily on the human spirit. One reaches a stage as a public representative where we must go very deep to find what we regard as the right words at this time. The more words uttered, the more empty they seem, which is sad. We tend to get frustrated and disillusioned, wondering how helpless we are to respond and act in a time like this.

As bad as it is for us, what must it have been like for the victims? We have nightmares from the fact that this could have even happened without people being aware of it. How must the victims have felt as they had to live it every minute of every day? Their lives were ruined and stolen from them. In addition to the vile crimes is the question of how they felt in the company of people who were privileged and had positions of trust but who could use that trust against innocent people.

As the victims got older and perhaps took a deeper knowledge of the gospel, they may have asked how the people who perpetrated the crimes were the very people who were expected to say how important children were to the founder of Christianity, Christ himself. Even using those words in this debate, there seems to be a clash between State and religion. In many ways they are inextricably bound in history and if it unravels that way, let it be the case. That is not an issue that worries me at this time.

The link between church and State is very much part of our characteristic. We did not often differentiate between the two. Therefore when we speak, as a Catholic and legislator in my case, we must balance the words so as not to give offence to any of the victims. We must also be careful not to allow a scenario to develop by turning a blind eye to what happened in the past, is happening in the present and which should never happen in future. As legislators that will be our biggest challenge.

We respond first by expressing our revulsion. We will apportion blame and in many ways the report has done that. If criminal prosecution is involved, let it be the case. When all this is done we must look forward. I remember hearing credible comments from the Opposition benches on a number of occasions when we discussed the topic. They asked if we are examining, as a State, where we are with regard to children's welfare.

That is the pertinent question and it has nothing to do with politics, policies or anything of the kind. We must ask if we are allowing something to happen now that will require a further investigation in years to come. I am not just talking about sexual abuse but all kinds of abuse and deprivation visited on young people. I can think of towns in this country where streets are segregated, although not loudly. If a person comes from a particular street, one may not give him or her much recognition. As a young person it annoyed me when that was the case. I know this is the lowest rung of deprivation but it is all part of the same issue, which is the recognition of the full potential of every God-given human being.

I went to mass last Sunday in Holycross, which is a restored abbey and reflects many centuries of church history. On the way I asked myself the question of whether the size of the congregation would reflect the outrage which we, as members of the church, felt against people who had got into positions of privilege and trust. Would the size of the congregation in some way show that our faith and spirit had been stultified beyond recovery? I wondered if the congregation would in some way avail of the opportunity to express a sense of outrage and protest within the church itself.

The size of the congregation did not reflect the outrage and it almost seemed bigger than previous Sundays when I went to Holycross. In my simple way I tried to analyse that, and I felt it was a determination by the laity to take control of the issue. Without stating a cliché, we were always told that the church was the laity in many ways, although I often felt that it was only brought into vogue when it suited.

The people in that church and many churches throughout the country were prepared to state that the church as a human institution was not the ultimate, and the church as a human institution in history would have had many cases of abuse within it. There is no question about that. These cases may have been very serious but could be glossed over. People would go back to their own simple and fundamental - I use those words in the best sense - faith.

There was a young priest on the altar last Sunday. I could not stop thinking about the report and how we had all failed the victims. When I use the word "all", I mean not just priests but also the State and everybody else. When I saw the young priest approach the altar, I thought to myself he had entered the priesthood in recent times. He had no hand, act or part in this terrible, outrageous history with which we are dealing. I am sure he entered the priesthood with the best of intentions to give service to others in keeping with the history of the church. I have often asked myself whether, in all of my dealings with the religious - be they Christian Brothers, priests or nuns - I have ever experienced anything untoward towards anybody else. I have not. I have asked others the same question and neither have they. Like me, I am sure that young priest is wondering how he has found himself in this mess.

I would not in any way minimise the outrages that form the basis of the Murphy report, but let me give an example on a different scale of how we all felt on one occasion. Let us look at the body politic and recall the scandals we have experienced in recent years. I used to ask myself whether anybody who had said they entered politics to serve the people could take money or be involved in anything underhand, particularly when they had been given the honour of being elected by the people. I have always asked myself that question. I cannot understand how anybody could do it. None of those present would do so. Therefore, we cannot understand how anybody else would do it. However, my experience is that once it happened, we were all tarred with the same brush. That is exactly what will happen in the church. Therefore, if we are to be genuine in looking after those who have suffered, we must focus on the perpetrators. While we must also focus on the structures, we must remember we should not visit another injustice on those who are blameless within the church. If we are capable of dealing with the issue in this way, we will serve the needs of all the people, including those who still hold a deep faith at this time.

Photo of Joe O'TooleJoe O'Toole (Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Barry Andrews. This is a troublesome issue, as any of us who spent the weekend, or part of it, reading this sickening report knows. I record my appreciation of the work Judge Yvonne Murphy has done on the matter. I know her personally and I am not surprised by her clear, direct and focused approach to the issue. The report was written in a way that made one feel angry rather than ill. It hit the right spots without being emotive. She told the story factually, like she saw it, in clear and simple language, with nothing hidden and no stone left unturned, for which we are grateful. It may sound sexist, but women can do a job like this better than men, as we are aware from previous reports such as the the report on the Lourdes Hospital inquiry.

I cannot find words to add to what has been said in terms of what one should say to the victims. I cannot deal with this. However, I found it heartening to hear what the monsignor had to say this morning on "Morning Ireland" when he was asked a direct question as to how he felt about Cardinal Connell's so-called "mental reservations" - in other words, half saying something and saying the rest in his mind. He was asked how as a theologian one could reconcile this with one's religion and beliefs. His answer was superb: "I have no time for it." He dismissed it straight out and it was great to hear it.

I am not a regular churchgoer, but last Sunday I was at a christening at which the parish priest spoke on the issues dealt with in the report. I could see he was moved and upset. He was genuine in his comments and did not really know how he would be able to face his congregation. He was so disturbed that I, the agnostic, felt compelled to meet him afterwards and thank him for his comments. I felt they were measured and dealt with the issues in a way that made sense to someone like me. I thought it important that he had made his comments. He contacted me afterwards to say how appreciative he was that I had taken the trouble to thank him.

I have tried to reconcile that approach with the case of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. On a television programme this week he said only two of his hierarchical colleagues had taken the trouble to ring him in the previous ten days. I was blown away by this. I could not believe there was such a lack of esprit de corps, solidarity, understanding, sympathy or sensitivity. I asked myself what kind of people they were that only two of them had taken the trouble to ring Archbishop Martin. It is not my job to be an advocate for him, but I appreciate what he is trying to do. I admire him and see what he is trying to do in an impossible situation. One feels he deserves support. More than anything since publication of the report, it stunned me that only two bishops found themselves in a position where they could ring him.

This confirms my view that I am not interested in calling for the resignation of bishops. I do not care whether they resign. However, I do care about them being replaced by another bishop. Why do I say this? I have dealt with the question of child abuse and paedophilia in many areas, once as general secretary of the Irish National Teachers Organisation, INTO, to which I will come back shortly. This was an issue we had to deal with from the 1990s onwards. I have also spent three years on the central management committee of the GAA. Were a bishop to take charge of an under-14 or under-16 team in the GAA, he would have to be vetted. At the same time, a bishop can walk into the position of patron of a school without a question being asked about his background or anything else. We cannot reconcile these two positions.

This may sound anti-Catholic or anti-religious, but I am a true republican. I believe in plurality and people having the space to act, discharge and practise their religion. I have no time for the liberalism defined by anti-Catholicism. That is not from where I come. I believe there are huge questions to be answered in this regard. People are entitled to have Catholic schools if that is what they want. However, I can no longer support the idea that the State should willy nilly fund schools under the patronage of people who have not been cleared as being appropriate persons to deal with the lives, futures and protection of children. It is simple and clear that we cannot deal with the matter in any other way.

I cannot understand why anybody would say other than tthere should be a full audit of every diocese in the country to see where this happened. We are looking at a sample of cases in one diocese and have uncovered all of this information. People do not seem to realise the report does not even deal with all of the cases in the archdiocese of Dublin. It only deals with a sample. Everywhere we looked at this issue, including Wexford and Cloyne, there were huge problems. There must also be problems in other places. The issue must be dealt with and there is no other way of doing so than by a full audit.

I commend the Minister of State for his words that there will be no hiding place. I commend him also for saying neither cloth nor collar will protect people. Our view, as I know his thoughtful view would be, is that we must have laws in place. There is no point in leaders of political parties or leading politicians calling for the resignation of bishops. It is not our business. Our business is to ensure that if somebody breaks the law by abusing a child, that person will be brought before the courts and made amenable to the laws of the land and answerable to whatever form redress we demand of them. Sadly, that is lacking at this time.

There is another issue. I have found myself in this situation many times in the past 20 years, whether in dealing with the way the previous Ceann Comhairle or people like Judge Flaherty were dealt with. I agree with Bishop Willie Walsh and share his views on the people we saw. However, the evidence must be provided before we can condemn anybody. I find it difficult to deal with a situation where the evidence is not used to bring them to book. That is the way it should be done. The person should be forced to answer. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said he wants these people to answer and so do I. I do not care if they choose to answer by means of a television interview but I want them to answer to the laws of the country, to the Garda, to the investigation or to the courts.

In fairness to some of the people in the church - I am beginning to sound like an advocate of the Catholic church, I will be losing votes all over the place - as general secretary of a teachers' union I have dealt with paedophiles and with cases of paedophilia as a result of complaints. These are the cleverest, most difficult people I have ever dealt with. Even now, I recall cases where decent people who investigated complaints and left no stone unturned were completely taken in. I remember one occasion when an official of our union told me he had initially made the wrong decision because he had been taken in by the person but subsequently saw the evidence clearly.

I recall another case I dealt with in 1990 or 1991. A teacher brought to the attention of the union his concern that a teaching or professional colleague was interfering with children. We commenced an investigation with the intention of passing on any information to the Garda and the patron body. There seemed to be evidence of a problem emerging when suddenly the man in question vanished. He was teaching in a rural school. Two years' later I found out that he had gone to America and enrolled in a seminary to become a priest. I followed his progress from afar. He was ordained a priest and he returned to Ireland. I did not have any evidence but I rang the bishop of the diocese where he was working. I explained my misgivings to the bishop but there was no complaint from a pupil on which to act. I heard no more and this was in the mid-1990s. However, on reading the report last week, it bothered me that the bishop I had contacted was one of the people mentioned in the report. I do not know where this guy is now but I have asked people to find out. I tell this story to illustrate there is no end to the lengths to which a paedophile will go to groom a child or to get into the circle of trust.

As I always say on these occasions, I could tell of the difficulties experienced for many years in obtaining Catholic church support for the Stay Safe programme in primary schools. It is an appalling situation. The INTO ended up paying for the doctor and psychologist who put the programme together because, under pressure the State withdrew funding and because of opposition from the Department of Education and Science. Apart from the support of people such as the then Minister, Deputy Mary O'Rourke, and a few others who pushed for it, the programme would never have been implemented.

In 1997, my first year in the Seanad, and many times later, I asked for the introduction of mandatory reporting in light of the Kilkenny and Mayo cases. I do not know the current situation. It should be a crime not to report when a law is broken, in my view and this should be a tenet of a democracy. There is a requirement on anyone who knows about these things to report it. This should apply to anyone dealing with children. Mandatory reporting should be insisted upon.

I have had formal meetings with the Minister of State on the question of vetting and child protection procedures to be used by sporting organisations and others. His support and his progressive ideas are beyond reproach. I know he has been subject to criticism and the point made by Senator Cummins is relevant in that the Government has been in place long enough and decisions should have been made. However, I do not question the commitment of the Minister of State in this area and I wish him well as there are hard things to be done and we must do them.

Photo of Pat MoylanPat Moylan (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I advise Senator White there are five minutes remaining for this business.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

Ms Justice Yvonne Murphy's report highlights the culture of secrecy and the covering up of sex abuse scandals in the Dublin archdiocese. Archbishops of Dublin did little or nothing to protect children from paedophile priests. The record of collusion and cover-up and dereliction of duty by church and State authorities is beyond belief. Thousands of children raped and abused by Catholic priests, many of them serial offenders, in the Dublin diocese over a period of 30 years. The allegations of abuse were completely mishandled by both church and State authorities.

The report is severely critical of the way in which abuse complaints were dealt with and covered up by some of the most senior figures in the hierarchy in the archdiocese. The inquiry into the Dublin archdiocese also concluded that the State authorities, including the Garda Síochána, facilitated the cover-up of the actions of abusive clergy by failing to fulfil its responsibilities to ensure that the law be applied equally to all. These are not acts of omission due to lack of knowledge or even neglect; the cover-up was deliberate and proactive. The moral authority of the church has been completely eroded and questions will inevitably follow as to whether it is appropriate for the church to have control over matters such as the education of children in schools.

For the sake of fairness and justice, it is now imperative that the remit of the commission be extended to all Irish dioceses. What happened in Dublin and Ferns may well have happened elsewhere. In those few dioceses that have been investigated, serious failings and similar patterns of wrongdoing have emerged. As abuse survivor, Marie Collins, said last week, the victims in the remaining Irish dioceses - and there are many of them - also deserve justice. She called for the dioceses in which they lived to be fully investigated as to how individual dioceses handled abuse allegations. We must now complete the process begun and hear the voices of survivors of abuse in every county.

The crime of paedophilia is as serious, if not more serious, than murder. The people and the clergy who covered up should be put on trial for the torture they have inflicted on children. Those who have been sexually abused suffer traumatic and lifelong effects. Many die from suicide and many take to alcohol, have failed marriages and many never get their life in order as a result of what has happened to them.

When I was younger I used to believe that people who got jobs in the Civil Service, in Departments such as Education and Science, were very clever and highly intelligent. It is very disappointing, to say the least, that they did not have the moral courage to act when these reports were made to them. This is evident in both the Ryan report and in this recent report. As I said at the time of the publication of the Ryan report, there is a social class aspect in that judges handed down sentences to innocent young children. There is no doubt in my mind that deference was shown to departmental officials and to judges and most of all, to the Catholic church.