Press Release

Government Publishes Ferns Inquiry

The Minister for Children, Brian Lenihan, T.D., published the Report of the Ferns Inquiry today (Tuesday, 25th October 2005) following its consideration by Government at their meeting this morning. The report has been published in full on foot of legal advice received from the Attorney General. The Report has been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas in accordance with the terms of reference.

“On behalf of the Government I want to condemn in the strongest possible terms the repeated failure and gross dereliction of duties of those in positions of trust in the Dioceses of Ferns who engaged in acts of child abuse or failed to take effective steps to defend and vindicate the rights of the children concerned.”

The Government accepted the recommendations of the inquiry in principle and is committed to their implementation by line Departments and relevant agencies. The Government also decided to refer the report to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The Minister said “I want to pay tribute at this point to the very courageous people who gave evidence of their experiences of abuse to the Inquiry”. He added that the Chair and members of the Inquiry have acknowledged in their Report its debt to the individuals who spoke about their experiences of abuse to the Inquiry and have indicated that it would not have been possible to produce the report without their cooperation and help. The Inquiry Team also acknowledges that they received full cooperation from the Diocese of Ferns and from the State authorities involved.

The Minister said “The Inquiry has examined the handling of over 100 allegations of child sexual abuse against Roman Catholic priests in the Diocese of Ferns over the period 1966 to 2002. It is clear from the report that effective action was not taken to protect vulnerable children over a period of many years. We must learn from the mistakes of the past. In addition to increasing public awareness and understanding of the horror of child sexual abuse, this report provides practical and far reaching recommendations to strengthen child protection practices in organisations working with children and to ensure a speedy and effective response to reports of abuse.

In the case of the church authorities, we must ensure that the current high standards of child protection operated by the Ferns Diocese are replicated in all dioceses. I am writing to the Episcopal Conference to ensure individual and collective compliance with the Inquiry’s recommendations in all Dioceses and I have requested the HSE to liaise with the bishops at local level on their implementation”.

Minister Lenihan said “The content of the report and in particular the Inquiry’s detailed recommendations for legislative changes will now be considered in depth and followed up as a matter of urgency.”

The Minister referred to the sea-change which has occurred over the past 15 years in relation to our knowledge of child abuse and to the steps taken by successive Governments to protect children from abuse and to promote their right to be heard.

These measures include

  • A strengthened legislative framework including the Child Care Act, 1991, the Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act, 1998, the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act, 1998 and Sex Offenders Act 2001.
  • Investment of some €240million since 1991 through the health system on building up an effective child protection infrastructure and family support services.
  • Appointment of a Minister for Children and a Cabinet Committee on Children
  • Publication of Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children in 1999
  • Publication of the National Children’s Strategy in 2000 (the first goal of which is to give children a voice) and establishment of the National Children’s Office to drive and oversee implementation of the strategy.
  • Appointment of the Ombudsman for Children in December, 2003
  • Implementation of the recommendations of the Working Group on the expansion of the Garda Vetting System.

The Minister concluded “On behalf of the Government I want to thank the Ferns Inquiry under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Francis D. Murphy for the excellent job they have done. The Report of the Inquiry will be urgently examined to ensure that lessons learnt are acted upon. I want to echo the hope of the Inquiry team that should this type of abuse ever occur again, there will be mechanisms and procedures in place which will enable victims promptly to report the abuse in the confidence that they will be believed and the certainty that appropriate action will be taken to terminate the wrongdoing.”