The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church today published its Annual Report for 2010.
A primary objective of the Board for 2010 was to conduct a review of each Diocese in the country to ensure that the Church’s current child safeguarding policies and practices were properly handled. It is with considerable concern that I read in today’s Report that this process was stopped after a review of only 3 Dioceses because the Bishops’ Conference, the Conference of Religious of Ireland and the Irish Missionary Union (the Sponsoring Bodies) apparently received legal advice to the effect that they should not co-operate with this review, despite the fact that those same organisations were responsible for setting it up in the first place. This non-cooperation has impaired the work of the Board in respect of this review for almost a year and has only now been resolved.
It is shocking to read in today’s Report that as part of the agreement which secured the Sponsoring Bodies co-operation the National Board will not comment publically on what it finds in its review of any Diocese or other Church authority: the introduction of any such information into the public domain is possible only the consent of the head of the Diocese or authority. It is totally unacceptable that the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church cannot move any child protection concerns or findings into the public domain without the consent of Catholic Bishops.
It is also of great concern to read that the National Board’s ability to track the national picture of safeguarding in the Catholic Church was adversely affected throughout the year by reporting deficits by the Dioceses and other Church authorities.
In response to today’s revelations I urge the Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald to introduce legislation to put the Children First Guidelines on a statutory basis as a matter of absolute urgency. This should be speedily followed by the introduction of a system of independent audit of compliance with Children First.