Statement by Minister for Children, Brian Lenihan T.D. following a meeting at Government Buildings with An Taoiseach and the One in Four organisation
The Taoiseach, accompanied by the Minister for Children, Brian Lenihan, T.D., today met with Mr. Colm O’Gorman and representatives of the One in Four organisation. The Taoiseach welcomed the opportunity to clarify and confirm his position with regard to clerical sex abuse and its victims.
The Taoiseach highlighted the strong priority which he has attached to this issue during his term of office. He highlighted the actions which he had taken to acknowledge, in the first instance, the suffering of the victims of child abuse, including sex abuse, within residential institutions. He had publicly apologised on behalf of the State for its failings in that regard and had ensured that the victims had access to effective redress. The Taoiseach pointed to his public statements, in the Dáil and outside, which had expressed outrage at the facts which had been established about the breach of trust by clerics who had abused children in their care. He fully shared and had expressed the dismay and sense of betrayal at the failure to confront this issue, when it came to notice, and as a result put more children in danger.
Minister Lenihan said, “It was the Taoiseach who oversaw the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry into Child Abuse and the Ferns Inquiry. It was he who directed that the Ferns Report be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.”
Minister Lenihan pointed out that the Government, under Bertie Ahern, had brought forward at least six major pieces of child protection legislation. It has also taken a number of other important initiatives, including the establishment of the Garda Central Vetting Unit and the appointment of an Ombudsman for Children. The Government have accepted the recommendations of the Ferns Report and so will take further steps to improve the level of legal protection for children by creating a new offence of recklessly exposing children to a risk of abuse, while also providing the Courts with the power to restrict any person, including a priest, who may pose a risk of abusing children in their care from holding any position that creates that risk.
Minister Lenihan concluded “On the publication of the Ferns Report, I condemned on behalf of the Government the abuse perpetrated on children in the Diocese of Ferns and the gross dereliction of duty by those who failed to defend and vindicate the rights of children. There is no basis for asserting that this Government, and still less the Taoiseach, is not fully seized of the damage which has been suffered by the victims of child sexual abuse, especially perpetrated by clerics. There are no grounds for believing that anything less than full rigour is being applied to secure the protection of children, both through legislation and through the external review and validation of proper and effective procedures and practices within the Roman Catholic Church, no less than any other institution or body in Irish society”.