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Bishop Magee Child Sex Abuse Report 'Too Hot to Handle'

Three weeks after submission, Department of Health says children's minister hasn't read it

Sunday Tribune, 27 July 2008 by Justine McCarthy


Bishop John Magee
Bishop Magee: has read the report and has given an undertaking to address the issues raised in it

A scathing report containing trenchant criticism of the Catholic Church's handling of allegations of child sex abuse by priests is proving too hot to handle by the State's health authorities.

The for-your-eyes-only report was written by the Church's child protection enforcer, Ian Elliott, after a victim of alleged abuse in the diocese of Cloyne, Co. Cork made a formal complaint to the Department with a view to having the case examined as part of Judge Yvonne Murphy's commission of investigation into the Dublin archdiocese.

Elliott submitted his completed report to the Department of Health three weeks ago but a spokesperson for the Minister for Children has confirmed to the Sunday Tribune that the junior minister responsible for youth affairs, Barry Andrews, has still not read it.

Elliott's report, which contains details of another case of abuse by a second priest in Cloyne, is a no-holds-barred exposé of how the inadequate response of Bishop John Magee and his officials to complaints of sexual abuse have increased the risk to children in the diocese. The report contains a number of specific recommendations to reform complaints procedures. It emerged in April that Magee was in dispute with Elliott over several complaints in the north and east Cork diocese.

At least three civil legal actions have been initiated in relation to alleged child sex abuse by priests in Cloyne. The case which triggered the report involved a complaint made by the parents of a schoolgirl to Bishop Magee 10 years before a garda investigation began. Meanwhile, the priest at the centre of those allegations had been placed on "restrictive ministry", meaning that, while he had no parish, he continued to officiate at church ceremonies.

Elliott, a Dublin-born Presbyterian whose appointment as the inaugural chief executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in Maynooth was trumpeted by the church last year, has confirmed that he sent his report to Hawkins House. Replying to questions from this newspaper, he said: "The review brought to light some deficits in the practice of the diocese in respect of two cases that gave rise to concern, and resulted in the National Board making a number of recommendations to the diocese for their attention."

He added: "The report was submitted to the Department in response to their notification of the existence of a complaint. It was also shared with the diocese and they were provided with an opportunity to respond to it. The recommendations have been given to the diocese for their attention in line with the remit of the board to provide advice and guidance to the church."

While Bishop Magee has read the report and has given an undertaking to address the issues raised in it, State authorities have yet to act on it. Children's minister Barry Andrews is waiting for the HSE to read it first, on the grounds that the 2006 Ferns Report recommended that the HSE conduct audits of child protection practices in the Catholic Church. However, it seems, nobody has sent a copy to the executive.

Asked if the complainant whose case prompted the investigation would receive a copy of the report, Elliott replied cryptically: "The report was undertaken in response to the notification from the Department of Health."