Board cannot act over alleged school abuse

CONCERN is growing among children’s groups after the National Board for Safeguarding Children confirmed they cannot intervene in an alleged child abuse case involving three teachers in a primary school in the south-east.

In the past three years, 20% of the pupils have been removed from the small rural school after nine children from six families alleged abuse or alleged to have witnessed abuse.

Five of the children say they were sexually abused by a class teacher. Three of the children say the headmistress was involved in the sexual abuse.

Investigations into the alleged abuse by the HSE and the board of management, of which the principal is a member, proved inconclusive. The families have serious concerns about both investigations.

Chief executive of One in Four Maeve Lewis has said she fears “Irish children are being left wide open to abuse” after the NBSC confirmed that, despite priests heading up school boards of management, the NBSC do not have a monitoring role over teachers.

This clarification of the Church’s role is all the more worrying in the aftermath of a High Court ruling last year that the State is not responsible either for ensuring that teachers don’t abuse children in their care.

In the Louise O’Keeffe case, the High Court ruled the Cork woman who was abused by her teacher, Leo Hickey, in the 1970s could not sue the State for damages as the teacher was employed by the board of management and not the State and so the State hadn’t put her at risk – a decision upheld by the Supreme Court.

Ms O’Keeffe has since lodged a case with the European Court of Human Rights in an attempt to force the State to take responsibility for what happened to her.

In a letter, the Catholic Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children confirmed to the parents of two of the alleged victims they cannot get involved in the south-eastern case, much to the upset of parents.

Ms Lewis said that there are “many serious questions to be answered by the HSE and others” about their handling of the abuse case in the south-east.

“It is frightening that we are sending children to schools where neither the State nor the Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children say they are responsible for child safety.”

Parents of the children in this south-eastern school, which cannot be named to protect the identity of the children, are seeking an independent inquiry into the alleged abuse. They say the board of management, upon which the accused principal sits, and the parents’ association, which is largely controlled by the principal, have “offered no help to us”.


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