I am still reeling from the sadness, shock and revulsion I felt on reading the Murphy Report since last Thursday. It is important to read the Report over time and fully appreciate the extent of what has happened in the Dublin Archdiocese in recent decades. It is also necessary to consider what should happen now and who should act. People ask me do I think the Catholic Church in Ireland will change? I don’t know and I don’t care. What needs to change is our government’s attitude to the Catholic Church and that’s not likely to change this side of the next General Election. The current office holders’ inappropriate deference to the Catholic Church, manifested in its disinclination from 1998-2002 to have this Inquiry, is only matched by their incompetence in eventually setting it up which took them a full 31/2 years 2002-2006.
Now the Commission has finished its work in Dublin, there are calls for it to investigate every other Diocese in the country besides Ferns ( already investigated ) and Cloyne ( investigation currently underway ). I support such calls. The first Dioceses investigated should be those which are led by a bishop who is named in the Murphy Report and found to have mishandled allegations of sexual abuse while auxiliary bishop in Dublin. It is quite reasonable to assume that bishops who engaged in a culture of calculated cover up of sexual abuse in Dublin, will have done the very same in any Diocese he is subsequently transferred to. I think it is also reasonable to assume that what has been revealed in Ferns and Dublin would be typical of practices and patterns of behaviour most likely to be found in any other Diocese in the country and victims in those Dioceses are surely entitled to the same process Ferns and Dublin have ‘enjoyed’. That alone would be a very good reason to ask the Commission to investigate the other Dioceses coupled with the fact that for many victims the full exposition of the truth is the only justice they may ever receive.
There is a second HSE audit of the Dioceses currently underway; so incompetent was the work of the HSE in its first ‘audit’ that it is now itself the subject of an investigation by the Children’s Ombudsman Emily Logan. Anyone who still has faith in the HSE’s ability to do anything besides waste money should read Emily Logan’s report into the care of non-Irish national children living in the care of the Irish state – they are failed every day of the week – and it’s almost 2010.
In July of this year Children’s Minister Barry Andrews published as 99 point plan in response to the Ryan Report. This needs to be implemented urgently though social workers working with children tell me he’s living on a cloud very near one Mary Harney lives on when she describes our hospitals in such glowing terms. Our national guidelines for protecting children are not on a statutory basis and Barry Andrew’s attempts to pretend that he’s changing this fools no one: he only wants to make compliance with the guidelines a statutory duty on any organisation in receipt of public funds ( this would exempt bishops for example ) and non-compliance would not actually be a criminal offence just a breach of employment contract. So not reporting knowledge of the abuse of a child would be less serious than not having a television licence, and Minister Andrews calls this progress!
The rights of children have to be enshrined in the constitution so that their rights as individuals have its protection and it is time the government presented the wording and a date for that referendum. The monitoring and support of convicted sex offenders in Ireland is almost non-existent, this needs to be resourced and improved considerably. Who is going to bring about such much needed change?
The next General Election will be unique in that in will be proceeded by these three shocking Reports which are testament to much, including this country’s failure to protect children to date. That failure would continue if we had all forgotten what response these Reports called for by the time of the next General Election. To show that political parties haven’t forgotten and are committed to raising standards of child protection dramatically after the next Election, I would expect the all the Parties’ next manifestos to reflect how seriously they take this matter and to have children’s welfare, rights and protection as a centrepiece of their policies for their first five years in Government. I very much hope I will not be disappointed as I have had quite enough of that in the last twelve years.