Statement issued on behalf of Archbishop Seán Brady and the Northern Catholic Bishops

13 Mar 2006


13 MARCH 2006



* Bishops to take lead and offer their names for vetting under the
Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults legislation
* Church to host seminar in Belfast on child protection and developing
care for victims of abuse.

The Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Seán Brady today announced that the
Northern Catholic Bishops are voluntarily offering their names for vetting
as part of a series of measures being implemented by the Catholic Church in
Northern Ireland in response to the Protection of Children and Vulnerable
Adults [POCVA] Order. Other measures include the future appointment of a new
director of Child Protection for the Catholic Church in Northern Ireland,
the hosting of an interagency seminar in Belfast on the provision of care
for victims of abuse and the preparation of Church guidance on safeguarding
children in Northern Ireland.

Speaking from Maynooth, where the Irish Bishops’ Conference is holding its
March General Meeting, Archbishop Brady said: “The welfare and protection of
children and vulnerable adults is a priority for the Catholic Church in Ireland.
We want the Church to be at the forefront of best practice in this area. We
want everyone in the Church to know what actions to take if they have concerns
about the safety of a child. We want those actions to be effective and we want
to work in full cooperation with the DHSS, PSNI and other agencies who can
assist us in safeguarding children.”

“As a result of the work carried out by Church representatives in response to
the Protection of Vulnerable Children and Adults (Northern Ireland) Order 2003
and building on the Church’s document ‘Our Children: Our Church’ launched
in 2005 in the Republic of Ireland, we are working on a new draft policy which
will be in line with best practice in Northern Ireland and developed with support
from the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), the Police Service of
Northern Ireland (PSNI) and a range of other organisations with expertise in
the care and safeguarding of children.”

“We have also decided to voluntarily offer our own names as Bishops for vetting
as part of our commitment to ensuring best practice. Hopefully these and other
measures such as the future appointment of a new Child Protection Director for
Northern Ireland with professional expertise in this area will show that as a
Church we are willing to learn from the past and to work with statutory and other
agencies towards a better future for all those in our care. Many Parishes are
already participating in our Volunteer Development Agency accredited training
programme and over forty parishes have established child care committees. Our
aim is to put in place a professionally sound, transparent and effective structure
which will involve the community and parish in the promotion of best practice in
the safeguarding of children and young people.”

Archbishop Brady added: “I have always believed there is a responsibility on the
Church to be proactive in such matters and that is why in late 2005 the Northern
dioceses engaged with the DHSS and the PSNI to review our existing practices and
to ensure full cooperation and the implementation of best practice into the future.
We have now audited our practices and reviewed our procedures according to the
threshold for best practice proposed by the new POCVA legislation and in consultation
with the statutory agencies. As a result we can now say that everything that is
in our knowledge from 1965 to 2005 – proven or unproven – has been reported to
the relevant authorities.

“We cannot undo the hurt caused in the past but we can put in place measures which
will enhance the scope of protection afforded to those placed in our care. This
remains our priority.”

Since 2005 a review team appointed by the Northern Catholic Bishops has been in
discussions with child protection experts, children’s charities, the DHSS and the
PSNI Child Protection Unit to produce guidance in line with statutory policy in
Northern Ireland and to respond to the new POCVA legislation affecting children
and vulnerable adults. As part of the review and consultation exercise all
allegations against diocesan clergy from all Northern dioceses from 1965 to the
present have been summarised and provided to the authorities according to the
POCVA threshold. The Catholic Church is the first institution in Northern Ireland
to have voluntarily conducted such an exercise.

Next week the Catholic Church will also be hosting a seminar in Belfast on the
subject of Child Protection and developing care for victims of abuse, involving
a range of relevant organisations such as the NSPCC, Nexus, Belfast Rape Crisis
Centre, the DHSSPS and Church representatives.


Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)

Notes to Editors:
* The Northern Catholic Bishops are:
Dr Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland
Dr Patrick Walsh, Bishop of Down & Connor
Dr Seamus Hegarty, Bishop of Derry
Dr Joseph Duffy, Bishop of Clogher
Dr John McAreavey, Bishop of Dromore
Dr Anthony Farquhar, Auxiliary Bishop of Down & Connor
Dr Francis Lagan, Auxiliary Bishop of Derry
Dr Gerard Clifford, Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh
Dr Donal McKeown, Auxiliary Bishop of Down & Connor

* The Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (Northern Ireland) Order (2003)
came into force in April 2005. The purpose of the Protection of Children (NI)
Service is to facilitate organisations working with children in complying with
the new Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adult (NI) Order (2003) legislation
when appointing staff and volunteers in regulated positions. A regulated position
is one whose normal duties include caring for, training, advising, supervising or
being in sole charge of children. It also includes a manager or supervisor of someone
in a regulated position. A POC(NI) check informs such organisations whether or not
the applicant is listed on the Disqualification from Working with Children List and
provides the organisation with information held by the Criminal Records Office in
Northern Ireland and the Child Care Policy Directorate in Northern Ireland.

* During the forty year period reviewed by the Northern Bishops, from 1965 to the
present, approximately 2000 (two thousand) diocesan priests have been in ministry
in Northern Ireland. During that same period 47 (forty seven) have had allegations
of child sexual abuse made against them. While the Conference of Religious of
Ireland will be presenting their own figures shortly to the relevant authorities
in Northern Ireland, it is understood that during this same period approximately
3200 religious sisters, brothers and priests were in ministry in Northern Ireland
and allegations of child sexual abuse were made against some 34 of them.