Northern Ireland: Church child abuse reports are 'no substitute for an independent inquiry'

'It is clear that not only did the Church fail to protect children, but so did the State.'
Victim of abuse

Responding to the publication today of reports by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International said:

"What we can see today is a statistical reminder of the horror of abuse suffered by children in parishes across Northern Ireland.

“The internal reviews published today are no substitute for a proper, independent investigation into clerical child sex abuse throughout Northern Ireland, whether in the dioceses of Down and Connor, Armagh or elsewhere.

"Clerical child sex abuse happened in Northern Ireland over many years. The abuse knew no borders and, indeed as we now know, in some instances the abusers were moved across that border from parish to parish, abusing children's rights as they went.

“The Church hierarchy, on both sides of the border, by their actions and inaction, helped to cover up that abuse. Whether or not the response by the authorities in Northern Ireland was adequate remains in question and we will not know whether there were failings in law, policy and practice until there has been an appropriate investigation of the facts.

"Survivors of clerical abuse in the Republic of Ireland have seen the State institute inquiries in the dioceses of Dublin, Ferns and Cloyne and have seen the Taoiseach speak out on behalf of victims. In Northern Ireland, to date, there has been no such examination.

"The Northern Ireland Executive has an obligation to ensure a thorough investigation of child abuse within this jurisdiction. The victims of abuse in Northern Ireland deserve nothing less."

Michael Connolly, who was a victim of child sex abuse in the Diocese of Clogher from 1968 to 1974, and whose case is therefore not covered by the National Board for Safeguarding Children reviews, says he and other victims of clerical abuse feel ignored by the Northern Ireland Executive.

"I and others who were repeatedly abused as children know how the Church and the State failed to protect our innocence. The National Board for Safeguarding Children reports are welcome but fall far short of what is really required - a fully independent investigation by the State to establish the extent and facts of the child abuse which was allowed to take place over many years in this jurisdiction.   

"It is clear that not only did the Church fail to protect children, but so did the State, which turned a blind eye to widespread child abuse over many decades. Only a proper public inquiry can establish the facts, hold to account those responsible and ensure that this can never happen again. On behalf of myself and other child victims of clerical sex abuse, I call on the Northern Ireland Executive to make a public commitment now to establishing such an inquiry. We await their response."

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