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Big Rise in Abuse Calls Involving Religious

Irish Times Sep 25, 1998 by Patsy McGarry

Faoiseamh, the independent helpline set up by the Conference of Religious of Ireland, has received more than 4,000 calls from people who say they have been abused by religious.

Ms Dorrie Mitchell, co-ordinator and director of the helpline, said they had received 1,000 calls last year and over 3,000 so far this year. She attributed the three-fold increase to the advertising campaign conducted by the Christian Brothers last March. The helpline received 1,200 calls in the following three weeks. Demand on the line had fallen since, so counsellors would now be present only between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays and between 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays.

While the service is funded by CORI to a total of £280,000 this year, it is fully independent and is staffed by trained counsellors. Ms Mitchell said staff on the helpline do not give legal advice, but counsellors to whom they referred people were directed to encourage them to report the matter to the civil authorities. Their role was to empower people to seek help, she said. What took place after that was a confidential matter between the caller and the counsellor. As a result, they could not say how many callers had gone on to initiate legal action.

Mr Andrew Madden, who was abused by Dublin priest, Father Ivan Payne, called The Irish Times yesterday to say the Faoiseamh helpline was "a cosmetic exercise". He felt it possibly breached the Catholic Bishops' directive of January 1996 which stated that in all instances where it was known or suspected that a priest or religious had sexually abused a child the matter should be reported to the civil authorities.

Ms Mitchell said that while she understood such anger the helpline was not a cosmetic exercise.

Faoiseamh can be contacted at freephone 1800 33 1234 in the Republic and at 0800 973 272 for people in the North and the UK.