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'Scant evidence' that Mayo/Sligo diocese told gardaí about child abuse

A report into the diocese of Achonry has found of the 11 priests against whom sexual abuse allegations were made, none were ever convicted of an offence.

A REPORT INTO child safeguarding in the Catholic diocese of Achonry has found  ’scant evidence’ that the diocese gave information about child sex abuse allegations to gardaí in the past.

The report by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, one of several published today, was strongly critical of the actions of Bishop Thomas Flynn, who presided over the diocese in Mayo and Sligo for more than 30  years until 2007.

The report found that of the 11 priests against whom allegations have been made in the diocese since 1975, none were ever convicted of an offence. In the majority of the cases, the abuse happened at least thirty years ago.

Nine of the priests are now dead. Of the two who are still alive, one is still in ministry but has retired, while the other has left either the diocese or the priesthood.

The report found that of the 15 allegations received by the diocese over the past 38 years, 13 were reported to An Garda Síochána and 12 were reported to the HSE.

However it says that while the bishop and priests are now committed to sharing information about allegations with civil authorities, this did not happen in the past.

The report notes “numerous examples” where there were “long and unacceptable delays in communicating information about possible child abuse to An Garda Síochána or HSE Child Protection service and in managing cases appropriately”, noting:

There was an absence of appropriate response by the previous bishop to allegations of risk, or to victims.

It cites one case where a priest was allowed to remain in ministry even after the previous bishop had received an allegation which was not reported or addressed. The priest retired six months later, with no evidence that the allegation had ever even been put to him. He has since died.

The report also says that the management of priests from outside the diocese was “problematic”. One priest, named only as “Father P” in the report, arrived in the diocese in 1981 to help provide support, but without the knowledge of the bishop. The priest sexually abused a boy during his time in Achonry. He was recently convicted of child abuse charges and is currently serving a 10 year prison sentence for abusing 18 boys in five counties between the 1960s and 1980s. The report says the case was not passed to An Garda Síochána until 2002.

The report notes that there are no current allegations against diocesan priests and there have been no new allegations since the appointment of Bishop Brendan Kelly in 2007.

It says that the diocese has met almost every single standard laid down for best practice in keeping children safe in the diocese.

However it noted: “Although the diocese has made really good progress in recent years, the work has not been fully documented or co-ordinated”.

Brendan Kelly, the Bishop of Achonry, apologised to anyone who had been abused by a priest.

“I am… deeply aware of how inadequate such sorry and apology are in the face of the pain and suffering experienced,” he said today. “And I wish to state that I am ready to receive and listen to any person who has suffered abuse, or [a] family member, and that this diocese is committed to offering support and help. And I further encourage anyone who has suffered this terrible injustice to report the matter to the Health Service Executive and the Gardaí”.

The report found that the bishop and the diocese “are fully committed to child safeguarding”.

The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church published eight reports today looking at how religious orders and dioceses have handled child safety issues in the wake of the abuse scandals.

The review was an audit of the structures and policies in place in the diocese to ensure the safety of children in church activities throughout the parishes in the diocese, following the failure of some Catholic priests to report child sexual abuse to authorities.

Achonry covers 11 parishes in Mayo, 11 in Sligo, and 1 in Roscommon. There are 35,000 Catholics in the diocese and 36 priests.

The report was carried out by reviewing case material provided by the bishop for the diocese along with interviews with people who work on safeguarding children in the diocese. The NBSCCCI said that it was satisfied that all relevant documentation was given to the reviewers.

Read: Archbishop of Cashel and Emly praised for speedy reaction to abuse claims >

Read: Diocese of Down and Connor met 46 of 48 child safety objectives >

Read: Two allegations in last six years at the Diocese of Ossory >


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