Rift over ‘negative’ child protection board

A NEW rift is emerging between the Catholic Church and the group monitoring its child protection policies after Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin attacked the independent board for being too “negative”.

It comes a week after the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCC) expressed frustration that the country’s bishops had refused to co-operate with an independent child protection audit citing concerns around data protection.

The board, headed by Ian Elliott, also criticised the fact that while all abuse allegations are now reported to gardaí, less than 25% of such allegations were initially reported to the board. It was only when Mr Elliott sought to double check figures prior to publication of his annual report that he was given the remaining 75% of complaints.

Speaking at a conference in Washington DC, Archbishop Martin said: “I’m actually worried that the manner in which the national board decided to present as their primary dimension of their report, negative aspects, will have damaged — not the credibility of the bishops — but the confidence of the people who are working in the diocese like mine.”

He said he was disappointed that the board presented concern over data protection as “a form of obstructionism on the part of the bishops, the religious and the Irish Missionary Union.”

“Irish data protection law doesn’t allow you to pass sensitive personal data to third parties,” he said. “We had to find — and it took a long time — a formula which would permit us to do that in certain circumstances, but it places heavy restrictions on all parties about revealing identities.

“This means that carrying out the review (of abuse cases) has been delayed, and the review will inevitably be unsatisfactory because of the restrictions that are placed — not by the bishops or the religious or by the board — but by the law.”

The NBSCCC had also criticised the fact that while Church authorities were notifying gardaí and the HSE about abuse allegations, the allegations were not bring passed onto the review body. However, the archbishop insisted “every known allegation in the past year had been adequately presented to the police and to the health service.” He said: “This is enormous progress compared to the past”.

The archbishop also described as “a gross misrepresentation of the truth” a report that Mr Elliott’s board launched a new training programme and the bishops refused to finance it.


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