A children’s watchdog today suspended an investigation into an audit of sex abuse allegations in the Catholic Church amid claims that health chiefs have not co-operated.
The Ombudsman for Children revealed it called off an inquiry into the handling of the Child Protection Audit of the Catholic Church Dioceses by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Department of Health.
Emily Logan said the move was due to the failure by the HSE to cooperate genuinely with this process.
Ms Logan said: “Despite a public statement and private assurances of its cooperation, the HSE has not engaged with the investigation by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office.”
The HSE maintains it has worked with Ms Logan’s office and said it was surprised and disappointed with the decision to suspend her inquiry.
The inquiry was ordered by Children’s Minister Barry Andrews in January when it emerged that bishops had refused to hand over information on child sex abuse allegations to an official investigation by health chiefs.
The new investigation set out to find if action by the health bodies in relation to the handling of the audit might have adversely affected a child or if there was any maladministration.
Ms Logan claimed the HSE failed to provide any of the documentation requested, while the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs at the Department of Health both helped in her work.
She said the HSE asked for her office to appoint a barrister to discuss the investigation with its own senior counsel.
“As a non-judicial body, the Ombudsman for Children refused to take this course of action and instead contacted the HSE seeking a meeting to resolve whatever difficulties the HSE may have,” she said.
“The HSE did not respond to this request for a meeting.”
Ms Logan said the HSE later agreed to supply documents that were not subject to legal privilege and delivered a photocopy of the original audit published in January.
“After careful consideration, the Ombudsman for Children has now deemed the HSE’s actions as non-cooperation, and has written to both the HSE and the Department of Health informing them of her decision to suspend the investigation,” she said.
The Child Protection Audit of the Catholic Church Dioceses was designed to benchmark the policies of dioceses around the country against guidelines set out in the Government’s Ferns Report in 2005, which uncovered paedophile priests in Co Wexford.
However, when bishops were issued with questionnaires in 2006, they insisted they could not respond to section five of the audit, which requested detailed information on complaints and allegations of child sexual abuse against members of the clergy.
The questionnaire also asked the senior clerics to provide information on whether the gardaí and health workers were alerted to any such claims.