Belfast Telegraph

Delays in dioceses reporting abuse

A diocese took up to 13 years to report four allegations of clerical abuse by suspected paedophile priests to authorities, an audit found.

Health chiefs revealed the Diocese of Clonfert took almost 10 years to pass on information about three other accusations.

But despite its bishop John Kirby being criticised in recent weeks by the Catholic Church's own watchdog for mishandling allegations in his diocese, the Health Service Executive (HSE) found it met all seven standards it set for its review.

The HSE diocesan audit examined the records of 24 dioceses across Ireland up to last November - but it did not recommend a full Commission of Inquiry into any.

The review was first ordered as far back as October 2005 by the late children's minister Brian Lenihan after the sickening Ferns Report.

Health chiefs found 579 allegations were made against 189 priests, including 31 who have been convicted. However, figures from several clerical abuse reports over the last seven years recorded the figure as higher. Cork and Ross, Meath, Ossory, Raphoe and Anchory were among the dioceses criticised in the audit for poor data collection and reporting.

Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald said she remains concerned by some aspects of the report's findings, particularly over difficulties in categorising allegations and significant delays in reporting allegations to the civil authorities. "The focus must remain on addressing the need for ongoing improvements, in particular in those dioceses identified by the audit as requiring further work," Ms Fitzgerald said.

The HSE said the report was delayed and protracted over the years for several reasons, including legal issues in its early days. Its first attempt reviewed policies and procedures but did not adequately satisfy the ministerial request, the HSE revealed.

Questionnaires returned from all dioceses in 2006 and 2009 were cross-referenced with records held by the HSE and gardai, with 30 allegations classed as being not analysable. In some instances, dioceses stated in their audit returns that they had reported all allegations promptly, but the HSE found they had not.

Of the 411 allegations that should have been reported to the civil authorities only 60 were reported with immediacy. Another 175 took either more than one year to report, or were not reported at all.

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