Ireland Report into Abuse by Catholic Priests Finds Police Coverup

By Walsh, Jason | The Christian Science Monitor, December 2, 2009 | Go to article overview
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Ireland Report into Abuse by Catholic Priests Finds Police Coverup


Walsh, Jason, The Christian Science Monitor


That the Catholic church covered up sexual abuse by priests for years is hardly news anymore. But the highest-profile investigation into abuse allegations yet in Ireland found another breach of public trust: The Garda Siochana, the police force for the republic, failed to investigate reports of priest abusing children and conspired to protect Catholic officials in Dublin for 30 years.

The commission on child abuse by Catholic priests in Dublin led by Judge Yvonne Murphy released its long-awaited report on the matter last week. Justice Murphy's commission investigated how allegations of child sex abuse by priests in the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin were dealt with by both state and church authorities from 1975 to 2004. The report slammed the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland and, for the first time, reprimanded state agencies, particularly the Garda.

Unlike the Catholic sex abuse scandal uncovered by The Boston Globe in the archdiocese of Boston in 2002 where, instead of reporting the incidents to police, the dioceses directed the offenders to seek psychiatric treatment, in Ireland children, parents, and others reported suspicions of abuse to police but investigations did not follow. Many cases were simply referred back to church authorities instead.

Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy said that the report exposed "misguided or undue deference" shown by the police to religious institutions and said, "That has no place in criminal investigations, it certainly has no place in 2009 under my watch."

"This is not about failings or learning curves. This about the reckless endangerment of children in a calculated, purposeful strategy to protect the institutional Church," said the abuse charity One in Four in a press release.

The Murphy Report, which was redacted by Ireland's Supreme Court as several criminal cases are ongoing, concluded that there was little regard or concern for children who came into contact with clerical abusers, that known clerical abusers were moved to different areas and the recipient dioceses were not informed of their record, and that there was a failure to report allegations to the statutory services.

Garda Commissioner Murphy has apologized for the force's failure to protect victims of clerical child sexual abuse.

Prosecutions to follow

None of the officers named in the report are still working on the force. Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern has warned that criminal investigations will follow the report, saying, "a collar will protect no criminal."

Mr. Ahern said that no one could expect to be above the law. "This is a Republic - the people are sovereign - and no institution, no agency, no church can be immune from that fact," he said at a press conference.

The state's past deference to the church has been condemned from legal quarters. Sean Corrigan, a barrister in Dublin, said the Dublin experience is in stark contrast to how the US authorities handled similar cases.

"There was too much support for the church within the Garda - these people have been a power unto themselves," he says. "There's more openness in America with regard to everything. We've never even had anyone convicted of white-collar crime in this country."

Irish legal provisions say the wheels of justice are turning, but that the process has been slow. "There are ongoing investigations but the process does seem to have caused a delay in initiating them," says Catherine O'Sullivan, who teaches criminal law at University College Cork.

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