Northern Ireland

Clogher clerical abuse report: Former bishop accepts criticism

Dr Joseph Duffy was Bishop of Clogher for 31 years
Image caption Dr Joseph Duffy said he regretted the management of some cases

A retired Catholic bishop of Clogher has said he accepts criticism in a report into claims of clerical child abuse in the Irish diocese.

The church's National Board for Safeguarding Children says opportunities for the church to step in and tackle child abuse were consistently missed.

It said claims were made against 13 priests over almost four decades.

Dr Joseph Duffy said he regretted the management of some cases.

Two of the 13 priests who were the subject of claims, were subsequently jailed.

The diocese of Clogher covers Monaghan, most of Fermanagh and parts of Tyrone, Donegal, Cavan and Louth.

Dr Duffy said: "This review is an important assessment of, and contribution to, maintaining a positive culture of safeguarding in the diocese.

"I am satisfied that the review acknowledges the effective child safeguarding structures and practice that operate in the diocese and which I, along with clergy and laity, spent many years developing in each of the parishes throughout Clogher.

"However, I accept the criticism in the review and regret that, in the past, the standard of managing some cases fell short of what is expected today."

The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI) published its report as part of the ongoing audits of dioceses across Ireland.

The report said that under the current Bishop of Clogher, Dr Liam McDaid, the issue of safeguarding children is effectively prioritised in the diocese.

Dr McDaid succeeded Dr Joseph Duffy as bishop in 2010. Dr Duffy had been Bishop of Clogher from 1979.

Dr Patrick Mulligan preceded Dr Duffy as Bishop of Clogher.

The report says 22 allegations were reported to Irish police involving priests in the diocese between 1 January 1975 up to November 2012.

Commenting at a press conference following the publication of the report, Dr McDaid said the church had had to face the "pain and shame of seeing children abused and seriously damaged and traumatised".

He said he thought the report in general was a "good news story, but as in most human endeavours there is further work to be done".

'Behaviour'

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Media captionDr Liam McDaid said "there is further work to be done"

"The report points us in the right direction to do that and we are determined to see it through," he added.

In one case, the report says, there was "an unacceptable delay" in taking action against a priest after what it describes as "a credible allegation".

In another, a priest suspected of being a serial abuser was not removed from ministry but instead moved to another parish and then sent overseas.

He was eventually extradited back to Ireland after several years but died before he could be brought before a court.

Those responsible for the report said that they would "draw a line between the practice of the diocese today and some of the practice that existed previously".

"The impression formed by the reviewers of past practice was that the response to abuse concerns was often unsatisfactory and that risky behaviour was not addressed as strongly as it should have been," they said.

Seven key recommendations have been made as a result of the report into the Clogher diocese.

The chief executive of the NBSCCCI, Ian Elliott, said there was now an improvement in the child safeguard practices in place in the diocese.

"There is a very clear difference between the good practice that is now present within the diocese and the commitment to an open and collaborative relationship with the statutory authorities," he added.

"We didn't see the same evidence of that when we looked at case files historically held within the diocese.

"That was a concern to us and we have noted that within the review and identified that as being not good practice and not something that should occur."

Northern Ireland programme director of Amnesty International, Patrick Corrigan, welcomed the report, but said "church-approved reviews" were no "substitute for a proper, independent investigation into clerical child sex abuse throughout Northern Ireland".

"It is increasingly clear that clerical child sex abuse happened in Northern Ireland over many years and over many parishes - but only a proper state-instituted inquiry will tell us the extent of the problem and help bring to account those responsible," he added.

Michael Connolly revealed to BBC Newsline that he was a victim of child sex abuse in Donagh, in the Clogher diocese, from 1968 to 1974, however it is understood his case is not covered by the report.

He was abused by Canon Peter Duffy, from County Monaghan, an uncle of the former Bishop of Clogher Dr Joseph Duffy.

On Wednesday, Mr Connolly called on the Northern Ireland Executive to make a public commitment to establish an inquiry into clerical sex abuse.

"Only a proper public inquiry can establish the facts, hold to account those responsible and ensure that this can never happen again," he said.

Mr Elliott said his view of public inquiries was that they tended to be "too long, too costly and they ended up telling you more or less what you know already".

"These are important issues they need to be inquired into, they need to be examined and the learning needs to be extracted from them, so that practice today can be changed and practice in the future," he said.

"But I think there are other ways that can happen other than through statutory inquiries."

The report into the Clogher diocese is one of seven relating to the Catholic Church in Ireland that were released on Wednesday.

One of them, a report into child abuse safeguarding practices in the Irish Province of the Society of African Missions said allegations of abuse were made against 21 priests between 1975 and the end of last year.

The Irish Province carries out missionary work in seven African countries. It also runs a retreat and conference centre at Dromantine near Newry in Northern Ireland and two parishes in Cork city in the Irish Republic.

The report said that only one of the 21 priests against whom an allegation was made was convicted of a criminal offence.

The other reports released on Wednesday, related to the dioceses of Galway, Ferns, Elphin, Killala and Waterford.

Twenty-seven allegations were made to Irish police against priests in the Galway diocese, one of whom was convicted.

In Ferns, 99 allegations were made to police against priests and three were convicted.

Nineteen allegations were reported to police about priests in the Elphin diocese. No priest in the diocese was convicted of having committed an offence against a child or young person.

In Killala, three allegations were made to Irish police against priests. No priest in the diocese was convicted.

Twenty-four allegations were made to Irish police against priests in the Waterford diocese. No priest was convicted of any offence.

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