Thursday, May 31, 2012

Child protection report writer told of Smyth inquiries

THE AUTHOR of a key report into child protection measures in the Catholic Diocese of Kilmore was made fully aware of past failings and controversies in the diocese, including the handling of the Fr Brendan Smyth affair and investigations carried out by Cardinal Seán Brady.

The review, which gave a clean bill of health to current child safeguarding practices in the diocese, was written by Ian Elliott, chief executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church. It was published last November.

Speaking in Cavan before he addressed a diocesan conference on safeguarding children, Mr Elliott told The Irish Times the details of both controversies were provided to him by the diocese. It was, he said, part of the process of facing up to what had happened in order to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

He said there would be no point in looking to the future with confidence while not acknowledging the mistakes that had been made.

The ability to acknowledge what had happened and put in place reporting and safeguarding measures to prevent it happening again were what gave Kilmore the strength it currently enjoyed, he said.

Mr Elliott paid tribute to Bishop Leo O’Reilly of Kilmore who, he said, had not avoided any of the painful issues and was committed to full transparency in relation to safeguarding children. 

He also paid tribute to those at the conference, who included childcare workers, gardaí and clergy, remarking that current arrangements ensured Kilmore was as secure as it could be through “good reporting practices and developing relationships with the key statutory agencies”.

“Good leadership and a sound set of policies and procedures are essential ingredients to effective safeguarding. It is also vitally important to have in place good working relationships with the key statutory child protection agencies,” Mr Elliott said.

“Last year I had the opportunity of being involved in a review of safeguarding practice within the diocese and of having the opportunity to meet a number of you at that time,” he told the conference.

“There is great commitment and enthusiasm for the task of effectively safeguarding children. I commented on this in the review report which was published by the diocese in November last.”

Bishop O’Reilly said he was “committed to the objective that our work in safeguarding children will do everything possible to ensure that abuse within the church can never happen again”.

Supt James Coen of the Garda Síochána Cavan division said the measures now in place were designed to ensure reporting in the diocese included reporting to the civil authorities. Every child had a right to be listened to and to be heard, he said, adding that children had a right to be free from abuse, and the Garda was committed to enforcing every individual’s human rights.

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