There will be unswerving public approval for the decision of the Garda Ombudsman to conduct a full investigation into Garda behaviour relating to child sex abuse cases in the diocese of Cloyne.
So much has been written and broadcast about the scandalous behaviour of clergy there and in other dioceses that people might be forgiven for throwing up their hands and saying “enough”.
However, so outrageous was the cover-up of what went on under the unseeing eyes of Church authorities, not to mention their connivance, that it is vitally important to ensure that if anything was swept under the carpet by gardaí it must be brought out of darkness and into daylight without fear or favour.
It was particularly worrying that the judicial commission which investigated the Church’s handling of Cloyne voiced deep concern about the approach adopted by gardaí in three cases. Of even greater concern, perhaps, was its assertion that “in one case, an investigation clearly was not commenced”.
If that is true, the situation is indeed grave. While the senior garda in question insisted that an investigation had commenced, the commission stated unequivocally that the evidence “demonstrates otherwise”. Clearly, a key question that must now be answered by the Ombudsman is why no investigation files exist?
Not mincing its words, the commission said it had “no doubt that there was no investigation even though there was a complaint” which related to a priest code-named ‘Fr Corin’. In a second instance involving the same priest, the commission was also concerned that no proper investigation had taken place.
It is absolutely in the public interest that having considered the commission’s report in detail, the Garda Ombudsman has opted to open an investigation into these matters. Obviously, the challenge facing the Ombudsman will be to uncover new evidence of a significant nature.
It is crucial that new light be shed on Garda behaviour of concern to the Commission of Investigation which found, in a particularly damning comment, that it was “clear that, at minimum, proper procedures in relation to the recording of notifications were not followed”.
The question in the public mind is whether it was a sloppy investigation or if there was a conspiracy of silence. Given the deep sense of public unease over the unsatisfactory Vatican report on abuse of children in Ireland by priests and religious, a document regarded by victims as “window dressing”, there is an onus on the Garda Ombudsman to expose the truth.
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