HSE forces bishops to hand over child abuse documents

BISHOPS across the country will soon have to hand over comprehensive details of every child abuse complaint made to them so it can be cross-referenced against Garda records.

The Health Service Executive is to strengthen its much criticised audit of dioceses to verify claims made by the bishops and leaders of religious orders.

For the first time the church leaders will have to provide:

* The identity of the person who made the complaint.

* The name of the alleged abuser.

* The full dates and details on when it was reported to the HSE and the gardaí and to whom the report was made.

The HSE will compare the details supplied with complaints already dealt with by the HSE and the gardaí. This is designed to check if the dioceses and orders handled the allegations properly and if they have given all the information available to the state authorities.

It is a development which moves the state closer to a full national inquiry on abuse within the Church – because the Government has said it will be on the basis of these audits that it will make a decision on the need for a full investigation.

Children’s Minister Barry Andrews made the announcement in the Dáil last night after he met with the HSE’s director of children and families, Phil Garland.

Mr Andrews said the HSE felt additional information was required on top of the statistical-based questionnaire it was relying on until now. The minister said he had supported this view and said it was wrong to consider the initial exercise as a activity of little use because it relied on Church leaders to answer the questionnaire fully and honestly.

“The collation of this additional information will, according to Mr Garland, allow the HSE to submit a more detailed and comprehensive report to me.

“I fully agree with this proposal and notified my support for this approach to the HSE this morning. The HSE will write to each bishop requesting this additional information,” he said.

The results of the initial audit will be finalised by the HSE on December 22. This will include dioceses not already investigated by the Commission of Investigation and a wide range of religious orders.

Mr Garland joined the HSE last month after working as the Dublin Diocese’s child protection officer, for which he won praise in the report of the Commission of Investigation in Child Abuse.

In the Dáil yesterday Taoiseach Brian Cowen said when introduced the Garda Vetting Unit will be the lead agency for managing the safe transfer of information on suspected paedophiles.


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