Press Release

Martin announces the Inquiry into the Handling of Allegations of Child Sex Abuse in the Diocese of Ferns

The Minister for Health and Children, Mr. Micheál Martin, T.D., announced the establishment of the Inquiry into the handling of allegations of child sex abuse in the Diocese of Ferns today

“The Foundations for this Inquiry were laid by the Report of Mr. George Birmingham, SC, who outlined the most effective way of conducting the Inquiry” the Minister said.

The Inquiry will be chaired by the retired Supreme Court Judge, Mr. Frank Murphy. In line with the recommendations contained in Mr. Birmingham´s report two other specialist members have been appointed to assist the Inquiry.

Dr. Helen Buckley has been appointed as a specialist in child protection issues. Dr. Buckley is a Senior Research Fellow and Senior lecturer in the Department of Social Studies, Trinity College Dublin. She is also the co-ordinator of the Postgraduate Diploma in Child Protection and Welfare.

She was a member of the working group to review the child abuse guidelines which led to Children First, National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children. She has 15 years practical experience in this area.

Dr. Laraine Joyce has been appointed to assist in reviewing the structures and management of the organizations coming within the scope of the Inquiry. Dr. Joyce is the Deputy Director of the Office for Health Management. She joined the Office for Health Management from the Institute of Public Administration (IPA). Dr. Joyce was Executive Director of the IPA with responsibility for their management development services to the health and semi-state sectors. Before that she worked in the IPA’s research division where she carried out many research and consultancy studies in personnel and organisational issues for the public services in Ireland and overseas.

She has an MA from the University of Texas and a PhD from the University of Lancaster. She is the co-editor of A Healthier Future? Managing Healthcare in Ireland, published in 1998. In 1999 the Minister of Health and Children appointed her Chairperson of the Nursing Education Forum.

The Minister went on to say that “the terms of reference (see below) will facilitate a focused and effective Inquiry”.

The full Terms of Reference are:

  1. To identify what complaints or allegations have been made against clergy operating under the aegis of the Diocese of Ferns in relation to alleged events that transpired prior to 10 April 2002 and to report on the nature of the response to the identified complaints or allegations on the part of the Church authorities and any public authorities to which complaints or allegations were reported.
  2. To consider whether the response was adequate or appropriate judged in the context of the time when the complaint or allegation was made and if the response to the complaint or allegation appears inadequate or inappropriate when judged by those standards to identify if possible the reason or reasons for this and report thereon.
  3. To consider the response of the diocesan and other Church authorities and the State authorities to cases where they had knowledge or strong and clear suspicion of sexual abuse involving priests of the Diocese of Ferns and to consider whether that response was adequate or appropriate judged in the context of the time when the knowledge was acquired or the suspicion formed.
  4. Insofar as responses are seen to be inadequate or inappropriate and, insofar as it may be possible to identify explanations for that inadequate or inappropriate response, to consider whether those factors remain applicable and to what extent they have been addressed subsequently.
  5. To examine and report on the levels of communication that prevailed between diocesan and state authorities, to consider whether more appropriate norms of improved communication between the diocesan authorities and the state authorities is are now desirable or practical.
  6. To identify and report on any lessons which might usefully be learned from how complaints or allegations were handled in the past which will result in improved child protection.
  7. To identify and report on any difficulties or shortcomings in current laws and regulations and to make recommendations as to legislative or regulatory change that would remedy these.
  8. In the event of the withholding or withdrawal of full co-operation from the Inquiry by Church authorities or any State authorities, or any suggestion that co-operation is being withheld, to report that fact immediately to the Minister for Health and Children. In the event of the Minister for Health and Children receiving such a report he will then grant the Inquiry statutory powers.
  9. At the conclusion of their inquiries, to deliver a full and final report to the Minister for Health and Children who will lay it before the Houses of the Oireachtas and publish the report in full subject to legal advice.
  10. In the event of the Inquiry not producing a final report within 12 months of the date of appointment by the Minister, the inquiry will publish an interim report and indicate a date for the Inquiry´s final report.