Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Ex-bishop apologises over abuse

Allegations have been made against 23 priests in the Derry diocese

The former bishop of Derry Seamus Hegarty has apologised for historical poor practice over clerical sex abuse.

Allegations were made against 23 priests in the diocese but there were no convictions, and a report said those suspected of child sex attacks over more than three decades were not robustly challenged or properly managed.

Interim diocesan chief Monsignor Eamon Martin said the church would not stand in the way of a state inquiry. Allegations were made against 23 priests but there were no convictions.

Bishop Hegarty said: "I was a diocesan bishop for 30 years, first in Raphoe and later in Derry.

"I now look back and know that my practice in the past was sometimes poor and I am deeply sorry that anyone was hurt through my management of allegations historically. I know that I made big efforts to improve as time went on and this is reflected in the Derry report."

Msgr Martin said the church is completely open to whoever wishes to investigate the diocese. "So, if the Northern Ireland civil authorities or indeed in the Republic wish to engage in that we will fully co-operate with that," he added.

According to the 24-page report, problems were often handled by moving suspected abusers to postings elsewhere where abusive behaviour continued.

There was a delay in referring sex abuse allegations against priests in Derry to the authorities by those advising recently retired bishop Hegarty.

The report said: "Priests about whom there were clear concerns were not robustly challenged or adequately managed, and problems were often handled by moving them to postings elsewhere. There is evidence that abusive behaviour continued to be exhibited by priests who were moved on in this manner."

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