September 6, 2012
SEPTEMBER 5TH 2012
ONE IN FOUR WELCOMES PUBLICATION OF CATHOLIC CHURCH AUDITS
One in Four welcomes the publication today of the National Board for Safeguarding Children’s child protection audits of four dioceses and three religious orders. It is heartening to see how some dioceses and orders have embraced a policy of transparent child protection and are working hard to implement good practice. However, we are also shocked and alarmed by revelations of appalling practice where the pain and suffering of victims could have been prevented. In some areas of the Church it is as if the Ferns, Ryan, Dublin and Cloyne Reports had never happened. Standing out for particular criticism are the Diocese of Clonfert, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and the Spiritans. The audits show that there is a lack of structure and policy, very low awareness of the safeguarding issues and little documentation to show how allegations have been dealt with. Priests against whom substantial allegations had been made were not managed properly, leaving open the possibility that they would abuse other children.
Executive Director Maeve Lewis says: "These audits examined child protection practices right up to the present day. It is beyond belief that children are still at risk of sexual abuse in certain areas of the Catholic Church and that the lessons of the statutory reports have not been learned. This undermines the very positive efforts that have been made in other dioceses and congregations to keep children safe. It is particularly worrying that in the case of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart it was only when a Senator used Senate privilege to name an alleged offender that action was taken by the order and the civil authorities despite a long series of credible allegations being made against priests in the order".
“It is as if certain senior Churchmen continue to believe that child protection procedures are optional and they are above the law of the land. We know from that past that children were abused because church leaders protected sex offenders. I believe that where possible, the Gardai should now investigate if these senior men are in breach of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 and if there is evidence to show that they may be guilty of the crime of reckless endangerment of children.”
Maeve Lewis ends: “The Church’s response to people making allegations is also reviewed. Again, while some dioceses and congregations have excellent pastoral programmes in place, in others that is sadly not the case. This supports our experience in One in Four where far too often complainants of sexual abuse are met with a robust legal defence rather that the support they so desperately need.”
Ian Elliot and the national Board for safeguarding Children are to be commended for producing such rigorous and independent audits.
June 6, 2012
Ireland has an enormously rich cultural heritage in music, poetry, literature and drama. Themes reflecting every aspect of Irish life are explored, celebrated, mourned and mocked. Every aspect but one: sexual abuse. As we know, one in four Irish people experience sexual violence in the course of their lives. That is a mind boggling figure, but is supported by research. And the impact of sexual violence reverberates out to the families and friends of the survivors, meaning there is hardly a person in this country who has not been touch by it. So where are the songs and stories, plays and poetry that reflect this appalling reality?
After the Ryan Report we decided here at One in Four to try to bring together our country’s finest musicians, writers and comedians to create a cultural event, OMȮS, that would explore aspects of sexual abuse. The result has been overwhelming. Rarely has an artist declined our invitation to perform. This year is no exception. Around the theme of “Celebrating the work of One in Four” we have the writers John Banville and Sinead Moriarty, the poets Ciaran Carson and Moy Cannon and the musicians Regina Nathan, Eleanor McEvoy and “little x’s for eyes” and the inimitable The Nualas.
OMȮS means “honouring” in Irish and that is what the evening is all about. Honouring the suffering endured in secrecy and silence, naming it out loud. But also celebrating the resilience of survivors and the lives they have built – we have had some wonderful comic performances too. This year OMȮS takes place on Sunday June 17th at 7pm in the Pepper canister Church. Do come along and help us to talk about sexual abuse.
Tickets are available from http://www.oneinfour.ie/help-us/shop/
May 2, 2012
One in Four says today that new revelations about Cardinal Brady’s role in the Brendan Smith affair require an explanation from the Cardinal. A BBC documentary revealed that the Cardinal had information about other children who were being abused at the time, but failed to act.
The documentary suggests that many children could have been protected from the sexual predator if Cardinal Brady had not been so invested in protecting the Church. Executive Director Maeve Lewis says “It will be heartbreaking for survivors to realise that their suffering could have been avoided if only action had been taken”
Maeve Lewis continues: “While on paper the Church now has good child protection practices, this documentary casts a shadow on the credibility of Cardinal Brady as a leader of the new policy. Although the times were very different then, it is unimaginable that any adult had such knowledge and failed to act”
Maeve Lewis ends “This devastating situation highlights how important it is that legislation is in place to keep children safe. The new Children First Bill and the Withholding Information Bill will, when enacted, prevent such catastrophic failures to keep children safe.”
May 1, 2012
One in Four today broadly welcomed the Children First Bill in a presentation to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children. Speaking to TDs and Senators One in Four applauded the introduction of clear, unambiguous legal obligations for statutory and voluntary agencies and for designated professionals to report concerns of child abuse and neglect to the HSE Child Protection Services.
However, One in Four expressed concern that the new legislation did not sufficiently acknowledge the role of agencies and professionals working with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and the obligations of the HSE to investigate retrospective allegations. Executive Director Maeve Lewis told the Committee: “The reality is that most children do not tell. They wait until they are grown up and feel safe. But just because the abuse happened years ago does not mean that the sex offender is no longer a danger to children. The man who abused his daughters may now be abusing his grandchildren. The legislation must address this explicitly.”
Maeve Lewis also spoke of the danger of frightening people from coming forward for help. She said: “Survivors are often reluctant to report because they fear, often with good reason, the reactions of family and friends. The last thing anybody wants is to deny survivors access to services and silence them further. Resources must be put in place to provide skilled professional support to help people consider the implications of disclosing and while making a report”.
One in Four estimates that only 10% of the notifications we make to the HSE child protection services are examined. Maeve Lewis continues: “If this legislation is to be effective, resources will have to be put in place to ensure that all substantial allegations are investigated. Despite the harsh economic environment, choices need to be made if we are serious about protecting children. Otherwise the legislation is pointless”.
Maeve Lewis ended: “ In the past children were abused and tortured in plain sight because adults turned away and did not act. The Children First legislation will help to foster a culture where it becomes the responsibility of all adults to ensure that all children are safe.”
April 25, 2012
Today is a great day for Irish children. Two new pieces of legislation have been published – a Children’s First Bill and a Criminal Justice Bill. It will soon be an offence to have information about a child who is being abused and not to report it to the HSE or to the Gardai. For too long we have maintained a fiction in this country that we cherish our children and that Ireland is a great place to grow up. The truth, as all the Reports of the last decade show, is that we are a country where adults turn their faces away from the abuse and torture of children and do nothing. That is about to change.
Mandatory reporting is a complex issue. On the one hand, we do not want to create a situation where survivors are afraid to come forward for help because professionals will have to report the crime. On the other hand we cannot ignore children who at risk. The new legislation finely balances this dilemma. Crimes against children must only be reported to the Gardai if the victim wishes to do so, or if it is in the best interests of the child. However, all allegations must be reported to the HSE child protection services who have a duty to ensure that children are safe. In our experience at One in Four, when survivors are given clear information and solid support, they decide to report to the HSE. They want other children to be safe. But only about 30% of our clients make a statement to the Gardai.
All the laws in the world will not protect children unless the resources are there to implement them. If we are to develop a world class child protection system, we must spend money on public education campaigns, on services like One in Four and on the HSE and Gardai who will have to work the new legislation. Times are hard and difficult decisions will have to be made. But starting today, if we choose, we could begin to make Ireland a place where children are truly safe from sexual harm.