Irish child protection watchdog to be unveiled

The appointment of an independent watchdog to ensure the Irish Church is implementing its child protection policy will be announced within days.

The Irish Times reports that the watchdog will assess whether the Our Children, Our Church guidelines - published in response to the Ferns Report - are being exercised in every diocese in the state.

Minister Brian Lenihan told the Joint Committee on Health and Children that the Church's guidelines were a step in the right direction, but that he could now validate or confirm that they were totally satisfactory.

The minister, who has responsibility for children at the Departments of Health and Children, paid tribute to the courageous victims of child sexual abuse who spoke out during the Ferns inquiry.

"The Government, my office and indeed the whole country as a whole, was appalled, shocked and dismayed at the extent of the allegations of abuse outlined in the Ferns report," said Mr Lenihan.

More than 100 allegations of abuse were made against 21 priests in the Diocese of Ferns between 1962 and 2002. The Our Children, Our Church document set out the Church's own policies and procedures for those who have responsibility for the protection of children and young people.

Members of the committee raised concerns over the role of the Church in primary schools, the appointment of people within the Church as a first point of call for victims and mandatory reporting of suspected abuse.

In excess of 12,500 alleged cases of child abuse and neglect were reported to the Health Service Executive (HSE), which holds the operational responsibility for the delivery of child protection, between April 2004 and 2005 - of these one third were confirmed.

Child protection watchdog to be unveiled (Irish Times 16/3/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Our Children Our Church - Policy Guidelines (PDF)

Irish priests hit back at anti-abuse measures (CathNews 14/3/06)
Dublin sex-abuse cases costing millions (CathNews 9/3/06)
Irish probe finds abuse cover-up in Catholic Church (CathNews 26/10/05)

Mixed verdicts in Catholic brother abuse trial (Radio New Zealand 16/3/06)
Inquiry wanted into abuse of boys by religious orders (Radio New Zealand 17/3/06)
Disgraced brother guilty of 21 charges (Christchurch Press/stuff.co.nz 17/3/06)
Irish bishops offer to be vetted under new child protection laws (Independent Catholic News 15/3/06)
Catholic bishops in North lead way in child protection (catholicireland.net 14/3/06)
Jury continues deliberations in Catholic brother abuse case (Radio New Zealand 14/3/06)
Bishops in child protection vetting move (Irish Times 13/3/06)
'Over-strict' interpretation of guidelines angers priests (catholicireland.net 13/3/06)
Jury in trial of former Catholic brother retires for the night (Radio New Zealand 13/3/06)
Teacher vetting campaign lagging (The Age 14/3/06)

17 Mar 2006