Andrew Parsons/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Diocese of Limerick: 'Prompt referral of allegations to the statutory authorities'

Summary of the main findings of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland into Limerick diocese.

THE FINDINGS OF a review into the child protection practices at the Diocese of Limerick has been published this morning, as part of a wider review into practices at a number of Ireland’s Catholic dioceses and religious orders.

The review broadly found that there had been a prompt referral of allegations following the instatement of Bishop Donal Murray at the Limerick Diocese – but until that time standards had been very poor.

Concerns were raised about the instatement of one particular priest who, despite having been believed to have abused in England, had been allowed to practice – and may have gone on to abuse in Limerick.

An assessment of the current management of allegations at the diocese, as well as response to and treatment of complaints, was positive overall – although concerns were raised about record-keeping and heavy workloads .

To date, there have been no convictions of Limerick diocesan priests against whom allegations have been made. Although there was one case where a prosecution was recommended, this did not proceed.

Management of allegations

The Limerick review noted that, prior to the initiation of Bishop Murray, the management of allegations at the diocese was “very poor and in our view, in one case potentially dangerous”.

The NBSCCCI review pointed to documentary evidence relating to a former bishop who was permitted to minister in Limerick despite there being an awareness of his abusive past behaviour in England. It is believed he may have gone on to abuse again.

Following the instatement of Bishop Murray, there were meetings with An Garda Síochána and the HSE (formerly Health Boards) to share allegations of abuse received by the diocese – a move that was commended by the NBSCCCI.

Murray ‘should have been more forceful’

The review praised the introduction of meetings between the diocese and the state authorities, and noted that they believed Bishop Murray understood his obligations to safeguard children.

However,  the also  noted times when priests who were subject of complaints had been “very demanding and  sought to thwart the restrictions of the bishop.” In these cases, they said, Murray should have been more forceful in challenging them and should have imposed restrictions in writing.

Murray resigned under pressure following the publication of the Murphy Report two years ago.

Prompt referral to the statutory authorities

The review found that in almost all cases there was “prompt referral to the statutory authorities” but noted exceptions in cases which involved allegations against deceased priests, where the complainants did not wish An Garda Síochána to be notified. In such cases, delays of “some months” followed.

According to the report, current standards dictate that even where there is reluctance on the part of the complainant for the state authorities to be informed, the Church must report the allegation promptly in the interests of safeguarding children.

Figures show that 45 allegations were received by the Limerick Diocese against a total of 26 priests – eight of whom either retired to the diocese or were there temporarily.

Most of the allegations of abuse relate to cases from the 1960s, 70s and 80s – but the most recent allegation was made in January 2012.

Allegations were made against 18 priests in the Limerick diocese since 1975; the civil authorities dealt with between 34 and 41 allegations after diocese passed them on.

Twelve of the priests against whom allegations were made are still alive. Despite criminal investigations never leading to any prosecutions, five priests were put out of ministry by diocesan authorities. Of the remainder, four are retired and three remain in ministry.

All of the 26 allegations were passed to the gardaí and health authorities and were given to the board for the March review.

National criteria

The review found that the diocese has fulfilled 44 of the 48 national criteria for safeguarding children, and the other four have been partially met.

Diocese of Limerick: 'Prompt referral of allegations to the statutory authorities'
1 / 9
  • Standard 1: a written policy on keeping children safe

  • Standard 2: management of allegations

  • Standard 3: preventing harm to children

  • (criteria) Codes of behaviour

  • (Criteria) Operating safe activities for children

  • Standard 4: Training and education

  • Standard 5: Communicating the church's safeguarding message

  • Standard 6: Access to advice and support

  • Standard 7: Implementing and monitoring standards

Case records

Some “significant gaps” in case records relating to at least two files were uncovered during the review.

One case related to a priest who was removed from ministry in 2000. Following his removal from ministry, further allegations were raised against him – but despite this, there is a complete lack of any record being made between June 2001 and May 2006.

“During this period, there clearly was activity relating to criminal prosecution and assessment of risk, but this is not well recorded,” the review states.

Neither a written precept nor a supervision plan was put in place until 2011 – eleven years after the initial allegation was received. The priest in question is described as being “difficult to manage”.

In other cases, there are no copies at all of any precepts being issued or records of meeting shaving taken place.

In general, in the opinion of the reviewers, the records did not “accurately reflect the amount of work that appears to have gone into managing the cases”.

Response to complainants

The response to the complainants “appears to have been compassionate in the main” according to the review, which notes that counselling and support was offered. However, records show that the distress felt by some complainants continues and the diocese’s response is “unable to meet their expectations”.

The reviews recommended a more strategic approach to the commissioning of risk assessments – stating that while it is not an issue related to the Limerick diocese alone, there was an urgent need for a greater understanding by Church authorities of their use of assessment and management of risk processes for clergy who are believed to have abused.

“This issue was discussed during the fieldwork for the review with the representatives of the health service that clearly have a remit under section 3 of the Child Care Act to undertake these important tasks” the report states.

The Director of Safeguarding also advised that he should meet with all priests out of ministry on a regular basis.


The Diocese of Limerick recently reviewed how their committees operate and has established three committees to undertake the range of tasks managed in other dioceses by the Advisory and the Safeguarding Committees.  They are:

  • Safeguarding Committee – responsible for policy, training and auditing
  • The HR and Vetting Committee – responsible for recruitment, vetting and staff difficulties
  • The Advisory Committee – responsible for case management advice

The Limerick panel was previously combined with the Advisory Panel of the Diocese of Cloyne, however this was disbanded by Bishop Murray over concerns about safeguarding practices at Cloyne.

The NBSCCCI noted that newly-appointed personnel now holding safeguarding roles in this area were competent, knowledgeable, and displayed genuine interest in protecting children.

Read in full: Review of Safeguarding Practice in the Diocese of Limerick>

Read: Diocese of Clonfert: “No written procedures for management of allegations”

Read: Diocese of Cork and Ross: Delays “in some cases in informing the statutory authorities”

Read: Child protection reviews reveal 378 abuse allegations about 146 individuals

Read: Missionaries of the Sacred Heart: Priests admitted abuse but authorities weren’t told

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.