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O'Gorman - Government Annoyed with Criticisms made is Refusing Funding

Nothing Will Be Gained by Short-Term Rescue Bid

Irish Independent, October 14 2003 by Bruce Arnold

COLM O'GORMAN was rightly admired for his courage, calmness, intelligence and clarity at the time of his award of €300,000 in April of this year.

It was accompanied by the all-important admission of negligence by the Catholic Church.

The documentary he made for the BBC and the fallout from it rightly led to the resignation of the Bishop of Ferns, Brendan Comiskey, and should have changed the circumstances surrounding the plight of the abused in Ireland.

He had already been running One in Four for a year at that stage, and in the 18 months since then it has received €633,000 from the Department to help fund counselling.

It has also been paid funding through Faoiseagh. Faoiseagh is a counselling service organised and funded by the Catholic Church. The basis for his main service to the abused victims who came to the One in Four organisation was therefore a combination of Church and State.

While this did not preclude him from expressing criticisms of the State and of the Church on behalf of the abused, it did - and does - represent a conflict of interest. In yesterday's highly emotional press conference, he alleged Government discomfort with his public criticisms, and suggested these had possibly influenced the decision to call a halt to funding.

This supposed relationship between Mr O'Gorman's criticisms and the organisation not getting further funding was strenuously denied by the Health Minister, Micheal Martin, in a later interview. But he was in difficulty over the issue of whether or not to enter further talks to rectify the position of One in Four for the future.

The problem is that the minister should never have allowed himself to get into the position he is in. He already has a countrywide professional National Counselling Service based on the 10 Health Boards. This was set up following the Taoiseach's apology speech, and so far €17 million has been expended. The huge investment is now in doubt for the future, with the State now trying to reduce expenditure.

A much larger team of psychotherapists than those involved with One in Four have seen their contracts coming to an end without renewal proposals that are satisfactory.

In effect, the State is as much in chaos as Colm O'Gorman claims his own organisation faces in the light of the need for further funding.

Mr O'Gorman's press statement yesterday raises major questions about the whole funding of services for the abused. And the apparently ad hoc offer in an RTE interview by Mr Martin to reopen negotiations with One in Four is a further example of confusion in the face of challenges from that organisation.

Two Departments of State - Health and Education - have involved themselves in the provision of counselling, funding, buildings for abused people to use and in some cases to live in, and organisations to represent the abused. There is an education fund which is under some kind of State management, using money given by the signatories to the controversial Church-State deal.

The hand-to-mouth provisions evident from the minister's confused response yesterday to Colm O'Gorman's shock announcement of closure demands a proper parliamentary audit of what is being done and how it is being done.

Nothing will be served, except the interests of those who want further confusion, by any short-term rescue operation for One in Four. The Dail needs to call a halt to the chaotic framework that has been erected around the tragedy of institutional and clerical abuse in the State.


Minister In Talks after Abuse Help Group 'Hit by Cash Cut'

Irish Independent, October 14 2003 by Kathy Donaghy

HEALTH Minister Micheal Martin last night said he would be prepared to meet with sex abuse help group One in Four to discuss the organisation's funding crisis after the group said it will be forced to close at the end of the month.

One in Four yesterday claimed it will be forced to shut on October 31 due to the Department of Health's decision to renege on a commitment to fund its counselling programme.

In a press conference to announce the shut down of the service, the organisation's director Colm O'Gorman said it was staggering to see the Department of Health invest considerable resources only to effectively "pull the plug with absolutely no notice".

According to One in Four, the national charity which was set up to support men and women who were sexually abused or were victims of sexual violence, the Government has provided a total of €425,000 but they had now arrived at the position where it was impossible to continue.

Mr O'Gorman said all staff at the organisation were given statutory redundancy notices on Thursday October 9.

"Despite every effort on the part of the organisation to resolve the crisis with Government the organisation will be forced to shut down due to the withholding of €81,000," he said.

According to One in Four, €81,000 is the balance due from the Department of Health for the provision of counselling services to the end of this year.

Mr O'Gorman said: "It is devastating after all the incredible hard work and dedication shown by the 16 staff here at One in Four in establishing this courageous and ground breaking service we have been forced to the point of collapse by the incompetence or worse, the ill will of the Department of Health and Children.

"What is of particular concern is that the organisation has now been prevented from playing a role in the Ferns Inquiry into clerical abuse."

According to the One in Four boss, who was himself abused by the late Fr Sean Fortune, they have had no direct contact with the Department of Health since September.

Mr O'Gorman, who earlier this year settled his High Court action against the Catholic Church receiving a settlement of €300,000 and an apology, said he had borrowed on the back of this settlement to pump a €73,000 cash injection into the organisation to keep it going. That money has since been repaid.

Mr O'Gorman said that while it was very difficult to see what the reasons for their crisis were, he said there were some suggestions that sections within Government were very unhappy with what they were saying in the wake of the resignation of Ms Justice Mary Laffoy as head of the country's Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse last month.

Mr O'Gorman said he had received a phone call on September 11 from a colleague.

He said the colleague wanted to communicate a message purported to be from Government.

"The message was that they were aware that the organisation was substantially funded by Government and that we were refurbishing our offices," he said.

Mr O'Gorman told that it was then said to him that: "My sabre rattling against Church and State was creating a level of pissed-offness within Government 'who does he think he is biting the hand that feeds him'?"

In a statement last night the Department of Health said they fully supported the establishment of One in Four and said an official from the Department would hope to meet the organisations representatives later this week to discuss their concerns.

In relation to Mr O'Gorman's suggestions relating to purported annoyance at Government level at his comments over the Laffoy controversy, Health Minister Micheal Martin said he wanted "in the strongest possible terms to rebut that inference" and expected the comment to be withdrawn.

Mr Martin also said he would prefer if "we didn't get into the megaphone approach to these issues".