Facilitator to aid talks with victims and bishops

AN independent person acting as an impartial arbiter is set to be appointed to help negotiations between survivors of institutional abuse and the bishops.

Following a meeting with the Irish Bishops’ Conference yesterday, John Kelly, the head of Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA), said it had been agreed that a “facilitator” would be put in place to improve communication and act as a go-between to assist both sides.

“We want to work out a roadmap for how to deal with the issues, so we suggested an independent person that will enable us to move things along,” he said.

“We put forward three names, I think the bishops were surprised that one person we named was a priest.”

Mr Kelly said the meeting with four representatives from the Bishops’ Conference was “very cordial”.

“For the first time we found a real change in attitude. They were more amenable and open to suggestion. We feel they want to take decisive action.”

He said survivor groups were also seeking an urgent meeting with the Taoiseach: “We want the Government to meet us before they make any public announcements on the issue of financial restitution.

“We feel it is disingenuous of the religious orders to say they are offering €161m when a lot of this is made up of property that cannot be liquidated. It needs to be clarified. We need to see something of substance.”

Patrick Walsh, also of SOCA, said it was agreed that child protection policies needed to be strengthened, and would be discussed further in the future. Over all, he said there was a welcome change in the way the bishops were handling things.

“This meeting was highly significant as it marks a change of attitude at the highest level within the church which I believe is happening because the attitude in the Vatican is changing too.”


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