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Historical Abuse

'Common theme' of failures identified in report on religious orders' handling of abuse

Of 512 allegations or concerns related to abuse, only 5 people were convicted.

A REVIEW INTO some religious orders that ran schools in Ireland has found “substantial wrongdoing” with poor reporting practices, poor record keeping, and opportunities missed when it came to safeguarding children.

The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCCI) similar to the Historical Abuse Inquiry (HIA), had waited until after the HIA had published its report.

The HIA found “unspeakable cruelty and vicious abuse”, and the NBSCCCI found said that their results were in line with the HIA’s.

The report looked at the De la Salle Brothers, Norbertines, Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd and the Sisters of Nazareth.

Teresa Devlin, CEO of the NBSCCCI, said: “Our goal here was not to replicate the work of the HIA, though of course there is some overlap.

The review of the De la Salle Brothers, Norbertines and the Sisters of Nazareth highlighted concerns relating to weak, or on occasion, poor practice which they are now working with us to correct.

A “common theme” of failures across the three different groups cited by Devlin include:

  • “Poor or non-existent” case management records
  • Responses to allegations of abuse were “driven by legal advisors” and lacked any pastoral approach
  • There were delays in reporting allegations to the police and child protection, and in some cases reports were not made
  • There were missed opportunities to safeguard children, particularly in the case of Brendan Smyth
  • In the case of Norbertines, there was an absence of any commitment to understanding or adopting good child safeguarding practice

Little improvement was found within these three orders, according to the report.

The report also details the number of priests/brothers/sisters in the order, the number of allegations, suspicious and concerns raised, and the numbers convicted.

In a total of 512 cases where allegations, suspicions or concerns of abuse were noted, there were only 5 people convicted.


In the case of De la Salle and Norbertines, the majority of allegations related to sexual abuse.

In a statement, the Norbertines said: “[We] wish to again recognise the hurt caused to innocent children by members of our Canonry.

We again unreservedly apologise most sincerely for the hurt and harm caused to these young people, while again also accepting that our management of the men concerned and the accusations presented to us were quite inadequate.

The statement added that they no longer have any community apostolates.

In a statement, Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd said that “we will continue to work with [NBSCCCI] in doing everything possible to ensure the safety of children into the future”.

These church bodies are now understood to have signed a memorandum of understanding that they would step up their efforts in ensuring that children in their care were safeguarded, and that had embarked on a series of improvements.

The NBSCCCI concluded that it would work with all congregations to improve practice and supporting them in implementing recommendations made to them.

The terms of reference and the reports on individual groups can be found here.

Read: ‘Unspeakable cruelty and vicious abuse’ – historical abuse inquiry releases damning report

Read: Column: Have we become numb to the figures on clerical child abuse?

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