Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Roscommon Child Care Inquiry

On the 22nd January 2009 Mrs A, a mother of six children, was sentenced in Roscommon Circuit Court to seven years in prison following her conviction for incest, neglect and ill treatment. The presiding Judge, Judge Miriam Reynolds (RIP) said the children were failed by everyone around them and that she was concerned that, while the former Western Health Board had been involved since 1996, the children had not been taken into care until 2004.

In the Central Criminal Court on March 5th 2010 Mr Justice Barry White sentenced Mr A to fourteen years in prison following his conviction for rape and sexual assault.

Today the HSE published the Report of the Roscommon Child Care Inquiry. The Inquiry had been established by the HSE to:

• Examine the entire management of this case from a care perspective,
• Identify any shortcomings or deficits to the care management process and,
• Make a Report on the findings and any learning arising from the investigation.

The Report is shocking and heartbreaking. No child should have to endure such abuse and neglect and the litany of repeated failures by the HSE is infuriating. The full Report can be found here -

What is clear to me from reading the Report is that the need for the Children First Guidelines to be put on a statutory basis with failure to comply being a criminal offence could not be more urgent. The Report states that ‘prior to their admission to care, the voice of the child is virtually silent... Yet a basic requirement in the delivery of child protection services is the necessity to at least see the children and, ideally, to seek their views of their situation. This is set out as a key task in Children First... and its absence in practice has been identified as a deficit in other inquiry reports (Ferguson, 2007)’ The Report also states that while HSE staff were briefed, there was no systematic effort to embed Children First into practice. The failure to put a legal responsibility on people to be Children First compliant ensures we continue to fail children abysmally.

For me the Report also demonstrates yet again the absolute need for Government to hold the referendum to properly enshrine children’s rights into the Constitution. Again we are told that ‘The absence of the child’s voice was also evident in court proceedings. This was most noticeable in the High Court injunction proceedings taken by the parents to prevent the Western Health Board from removing the children from their parents. There, for constitutional and legal reasons, the parents’ right to be heard was not matched by equal consideration of the wishes or the needs of the children’. Further on we are told that ‘The failure to consult with, and to hear, the voice of the six children was a notable feature in this case’. We must, as a matter of urgency, have a referendum which guarantees children constitutional rights including the right that .... In the resolution of all disputes concerning the guardianship, adoption, custody, care or upbringing of a child, the welfare and best interests of the child shall be the first and paramount consideration.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Apostolic Visitation

In May of this year details were released from the Vatican about the ‘Apostolic Visitation’ to Ireland of various Catholic Cardinals and Archbishops in response to the publication of the Murphy Report and indeed the Ryan and Ferns Reports previously.

The reasons for this Visitation are given as:

1. To offer assistance to the Bishops, clergy, religious and lay faithful as they seek to respond adequately to the situation caused by the tragic cases of abuse perpetrated by priests and religious upon minors.

(I don’t know what the Vatican means by ‘respond adequately to the situation caused by the tragic cases of abuse’ – what is ‘the situation caused’ as they see it?)

2. To contribute to the desired spiritual and moral renewal that is already being vigorously pursued by the Church in Ireland.

(I have no confidence in the moral renewal of a Church whose leaders only tell the truth about their response to the sexual abuse of children by priests when they are hauled in front of statutory inquiries and whose leaders fail to take responsibility for their actions or inactions.)

3. To explore more deeply questions concerning the handling of cases of abuse and the assistance owed to the victims.

(‘Explore more deeply questions concerning the handling of cases of abuse’? That is typical of the spin the Bishops like to put on the Murphy Report. There are no questions. They have been asked and answered at the Commission of Investigation and the ultimate finding was one of bishops covering up for priests abusing children in order to protect the Church.)

4. To monitor the effectiveness of and seek possible improvements to the current procedures for preventing abuse.

(I have no trust in a Church monitoring the effectiveness of child protection measures when its own leadership is littered with Bishops who failed to protect children from priests known to the Church to be a danger and who still fail to take responsibility for that failure.)

By having this ‘Apostolic Visitation’ the Vatican is trying to maintain the pretence that the sexual abuse of children by priests was an Irish problem, but it wasn’t Irish bishops who were covering up the sexual abuse of children by priests in Dioceses throughout the United States and in Europe. The Philadelphia Report described the Catholic Church as having employed well-orchestrated strategies for decades and in all parts of the United States to keep abusing priests in ministry while minimising the risk of scandal or legal liability.

I also feel that there has been ample opportunity for Catholic Bishops to understand what was expected of them in response to publication of the Murphy Report – on all occasions the views of victims have been ignored. Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan refused a request for a meeting in December 2009, Bishops Eamon Walshe and Raymond Field eventually offered their resignations but apparently launched a very successful campaign behind the scenes to ensure they were not accepted by Pope Benedict. Pope Benedict himself has not even acknowledged the letter sent by Marie Collins, Maeve Lewis (OneInFour) and myself at the time the Irish Bishops were meeting him earlier this year. Cardinal Brady ignored victims’ requests for him to stand aside after it was revealed that he had participated in a process of cover up for Fr Brendan Smyth in 1975 who was left free to carry on sexually abusing children for another 18 years. This Apostolic Visitation is more about Catholic Bishops giving the impression of listening to what victims have to say as opposed to actually acting on our requests. To engage with this process is to mistakenly give it credibility and I do not intend to do that.

The Apostolic Visitation is nothing more than self-serving window-dressing nonsense.