by John Cooney Irish Independent, Saturday November 08 2008
Shocking new figures show that 400 children have been identified as possible victims of sex abuse by priests in the Dublin Archdiocese -- proportionately even higher then the catalogue of horrors found by a Government investigation into the Diocese of Ferns.
And settlement claims paid to victims suspected of being abused by 152 priests over the last 68 years has soared to more than €12m.
"It is most likely that this is not a final figure," Archbishop Diarmuid Martin conceded yesterday, when he disclosed the revised figures showing the horrendous scale of clerical paedophilia in the archdiocese since 1940.
The Ferns probe identified more then 100 allegations of child sex abuse between 1962 and 2002 against 21 priests.
Archbishop Martin, who earlier this year openly clashed with his predecessor, Cardinal Desmond Connell, over making full public disclosure of abuse cases, said he was issuing the updated figures as part of his policy of getting to the root of the full extent of clerical child abuse.
Last February Cardinal Connell withdrew his High Court action to prevent Archbishop Martin from handing over allegedly privileged documents to the Government Commission of Inquiry into the archdiocese of Dublin headed by Circuit Court judge, Yvonne Murphy.
Cardinal Connell later withdrew his legal move after a huge public outcry supported Archbishop Martin.
Archbishop Martin's ongoing discovery of new complaints -- which are now far higher than first found by Cardinal Connell before his retirement -- clearly indicate the huge volume of files being investigated by the Commission which recently received Oireachtas approval to extend its work until next year. Fifteen more priests and members of Religious Orders against whom allegations were made, or suspicions raised, of child sex abuse since 1940 have been found by the archbishop since his previous count in May 2007, bringing the total up from 147 to 152.
Dr Martin also revealed that settlement claims paid to abuse victims have soared to €12.4m, a jump of €4.6m in the past 18 months.
Archbishop Martin explained that the figures constitute a record of allegations made and suspicions raised since 1940 irrespective of the eventual outcome.
"They include allegations which have been substantiated, and those which have not, and allegations which are demonstrably false or mistaken," he said. To date, eight priests have been convicted in the criminal courts, and three others who have been the subject of allegations of child sexual abuse are currently before the courts.
A total of 120 civil actions have been brought against 35 Dublin priests or priests who held appointments in the diocese; 94 have been concluded and 26 are continuing.
The difficulties in tracing offenders is underlined by how Archbishop Martin has obtained information regarding allegations of sexual abuse against a particular priest who, despite close liaison with the gardai and the health authorities, has not yet been identified.
- John Cooney