HSE exempted Dublin archdiocese from full disclosure of abuse

Irish Times/January 7, 2009

Dublin's Catholic archdiocese was exempted by the Health Service Executive from filling out a section of a questionnaire on child abuse sent to all Catholic dioceses in the Republic in October 2006.

Section 5 of the questionnaire sought detailed information on complaints and allegations of child sexual abuse against members of the clergy, and whether these allegations had or had not been brought to the attention of civil authorities.

The bishops responded that Section 5 "presented insurmountable difficulties" in relation to confidentiality and constitutional issues, as appropriate legislation was not in place. A spokeswoman for the Office of the Minister for Children said "the HSE obtained legal advice and on this basis decided to proceed with the audit with the exception of Section 5".

It has since emerged that at that time the HSE gave a commitment to the bishops to return to them on the Section 5 issue, but did not do so. In recent years the bishops have called repeatedly for legislation in the Republic to allow them comply fully with the requirement to supply all information to authorities here, as they do in Northern Ireland where necessary legislation is in place.

The Dublin archdiocese was exempted as it was already being investigated by the Dublin archdiocese Commission of Investigation. This has led to fears being expressed in church and State circles that, were the remit of the commission to be extended by the Government to include Cloyne and possibly other Catholic dioceses in the Republic, it might mean that continuing church and State audits on child protection practices in those dioceses could be suspended pending the outcome of the commission investigation, as in Dublin currently.

Meanwhile, pastoral councils introduced in the Dublin archdiocese followed a recommendation by the Council of Priests in the diocese, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has confirmed. He was reported in this newspaper on Monday as saying the pastoral councils were set up against the advice of the Council of Priests. Modifications by him to the council's recommendations and a time frame incurred opposition.

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