Belfast Telegraph

Clergy training in child protection

By Brendan McDaid

Catholic clergy and church workers in Londonderry have undergone child protection training in a bid to eliminate the risk of abuse in the diocese.

Pioneering priests from across the North West, led by Bishop of Derry Seamus Hegarty, Auxiliary Bishop Francis Lagan and retired Bishop Edward Daly, have undertaken the four-day course between October 2006 and May this year. In a further move, priests and parish representatives working with children in church organisations have also faced "rigorous" screening under the Protection of Children & Vulnerable Adults (POCVA) vetting procedures.

Similar measures have been introduced for the parts of the diocese which lie within Donegal. Details of the wide programme of reforms were contained within the first annual report of the Derry Diocesan Child Protection Committee.

The committee was set up throughout the summer and autumn of 2005 by Bishop Hegarty and the Child Protection Office of the Irish Bishops' Conference.

It's inception came as Bishop Hegarty revealed in October the same year that around 40 child sex abuse allegations had been made against 26 priests in the Derry diocese over the previous 50 years. At the time, Dr Hegarty also revealed that 13 of these priests were still working in the Catholic Church, some in the Derry diocese.

The findings caused widespread shock among congregations in the city.

The Child Protection Committee's brief was to oversee all aspects of " best practice" within the diocese and manage a diocesan training strategy.

Voluntary committee members with experience in education, psychology, counselling, parish ministry and law have been selected to independently oversee the implementation of the new measures.

A spokesman for the committee states in the report summary: "Developing 'best practice' in the Church's 'ministry' with children and young people will seek to ensure the well-being of each individual involved in any Church-related activity.

"In keeping with this ethos, the Diocese of Derry seeks to create safe environments for children and young people, and to ensure their safe-guarding from physical, sexual and emotional abuse."

All 53 parishes in the diocese have put forward representatives to undergo training.

Belfast Telegraph


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