Priest defends role in sexual abuse claim

THE man in charge of child protection in the Diocese of Cloyne said he acted in accordance with Church and state guidelines by informing a priest accused of abuse who his accuser was and the nature of their complaint.

Fr Bill Bermingham said, as the designated child protection officer, he followed guidelines laid down by the Department of Health and Children and the Catholic Church for dealing with allegations. He said the guidelines required him to carry out a number of steps, including immediately informing the HSE and gardaí of a complaint.

Fr Bermingham said when conducting interviews with an accused person, he was specifically required to inform them of the identity of the complainant and the details of the allegation. He said the document Safeguarding Children: Standards and Guidance Document for the Catholic Church, which is fully compliant with child protection legislation, states an accused person must be given enough detail about the allegation to be able to offer a response.

Fr Bermingham said he was most reluctant to speak publicly about an individual allegation but wanted to clarify the situation. He said the complaint was referred to him by the Catholic Church’s abuse helpline, Faoiseamh, in May 2009.

“On the same day, I reported it to the gardaí and HSE. On the following day, in accordance with current policy, the accused priest was stood aside from ministry to allow the allegation to be investigated.”

He said he later met with the alleged victim to listen to details of the complaint and subsequently forwarded a copy to the person to verify its accuracy, although he didn’t receive a reply.

Fr Bermingham said he subsequently met with the accused priest to inform him of these allegations.

“In order to ensure the complaint was accurately and clearly conveyed, I read to him my notes of my meeting with the complainant.

“The accused priest subsequently requested a copy of these notes, as was his entitlement, and these were furnished to him through his priest adviser,” Fr Bermingham said.

“When I furnished this record, this was not in any way connected to the Garda investigation or to a pending Garda interview with the accused priest.”


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