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
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. …