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Tuesday 28 November 2023 Dublin: 1°C
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Responsibility to safeguard children taken with "utmost seriousness" in Diocese of Meath

However, in one previous case, the diocese took 18 months before making formal contact with the HSE over a case of abuse.

A RESPONSIBILITY TO protect children from abuse is treated with “utmost seriousness” in the Catholic Church’s Diocese of Meath, a report has found.

It’s part of the fifth tranche of reviews on child safeguarding in a number of dioceses by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI).

However, in one case, while formal contact was made with An Garda Síochána regarding allegations of abuse, the diocese waited 18 months before formally notifying the HSE, although informal contact was made.

The diocese was compliant in the vast majority of areas scrutinised by the watchdog.

It “partially met” just five criterion, resulting in a range of recommendations focusing on areas such as communication with victims of abuse and improved training for staff.

The remaining 43 were “fully met”.

The report highlighted a need to inform children “of their right to feel and to be safe”, as while steps had been taken to develop a “safeguarding message”, the reviewers called for a “more structured involvement of children in the creation of communication materials”.

There were also issues with note taking in relation to victim outreach and support, with “very little narrative” in case reports detailing the interaction between bishop, designated liaison person (DLP) and support person.

“The bishop held the view that his contacts with many complainants were of a pastoral nature and he therefore believed that they did not need to be recorded,” the report details.

The report also details information surrounding a conviction against a priest, referred to as Father A, for child sexual abuse against a total of 10 children in the 1960s and 1970s.

While a garda investigation was on-going in 2008, “the Diocese of Meath was not informed of the details of the allegations and the complainants were not identified” the report states.

“This was a source of frustration for the bishop and the designated person. They had to rely on the media or on the respondent priest to inform them of developments in the case.”

This, they believe undermined their ability to seek to engage in a timely manner with the complainants.

The report also notes that while Father A was “promptly removed from active ministry… the file did not show evidence of a risk management or safety plan in relation to this priest until the months prior to his conviction in 2012″.

It also notes that the diocese “sought to [...] satisfy itself that the HSE was aware of the allegation through informal contact,” but that formal contact was not made until 18 months after the first allegations of abuse were made.

Safeguarding Details List

While welcoming the reports findings, Bishop Michael Smith warned that the diocese “must not be complacent”.

There is always further work of vigilance to be done to ensure that, to the best of our ability, the abuse of children does not take place.

“I take this opportunity once again to express my sincere apologies to all who were abused,” he added.

“I encourage anyone who has yet to come forward with information to cooperate fully with the civil authorities and they will be assisted by the Diocese of Meath and the support services established by the Church in Ireland to heal their pain.”

Towards Healing Telephone Helpline have extended opening hours are: 8pm to 1am both today and tomorrow and can be contacted on Freephone 1800 303416 (Rep. of Ireland) Freephone 0800 0963315 (Northern Ireland and UK).

Read: Dublin Archdiocese commended for ‘exemplar’ child abuse allegation reporting system >

More: Child protection review recommends Cloyne Diocese set up whistle blowing policy >

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