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Christian Brothers Decide to Drop Appeal

Irish Times, June 26, 2004 by Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs Correspondent

Action was intended to prevent commission from naming certain categories of abusers in its final report

The Christian Brothers have decided to drop their Supreme Court appeal, scheduled for Tuesday, in an action against the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, The Irish Times has learned.

The appeal followed a partially successful High Court action last year by the congregation, which also won its costs.

In a brief comment last night a spokeswoman for the Department of Education & Science, which has responsibility for the commission, said "it has been indicated to the courts that none of the parties will proceed to the appeal". It was expected it would therefore be "struck out" at the hearing on Tuesday, she said.

The Christian Brothers' action was taken against the commission, the Minister for Education and Science and the Attorney General, all of whom opposed the application. It was intended to prevent the commission from naming as abusers in its final report deceased members of the congregation, those accused members too infirm to give instructions, those who could not be found, and those accused who were otherwise prejudiced in their ability to defend themselves. Under the provision of the Child Abuse Act 2000, the commission was to name such people, where relevant, in its final report.

However, on June 16th, Mr Justice Seán Ryan, chairman of the commission and currently presiding over the hearing of its investigation committee, announced that it had been decided "not to name individual perpetrators of abuse unless they were convicted in the courts" in the final report.

It had also been decided "to call witnesses to give evidence of abuse suffered by them to the extent necessary for the inquiry", he said. Proposals on those lines were outlined by him at a press conference in Dublin on May 7th.

He said the committee planned to investigate each residential institution separately and would "first ascertain what the attitude of the relevant congregation is to the complaints that have been made". The committee would then be in a position to decide how many of the complainants they would need to call "in order to fill out the picture", he said.

Where there were high levels of co-operation by institutions it would be "obviously unnecessary to concentrate on hearing a large number of witnesses", he said. The attitudes of the congregations and institutions to complaints made were "very important", he said.

It was hoped the congregations would "feel able to co-operate as fully as possible, and it should be acknowledged that some congregations had taken a position of spectacular Christian concern for the victims and for finding out the truth", he said. "No devout religious can feel comfortable putting victims of abuse through further trauma and distress if that can be avoided."

Approximately 700 abuse allegations are pending against present, former, or deceased Christian Brothers.