25 June 2010
Statement by Fr Bill Bermingham, Designated Person for Safeguarding Children for the Diocese of Cloyne
I wish to clarify a serious issue which has been the subject of various national media reports; these reports suggest that I acted improperly in processing a specific complaint of child sexual abuse against a priest of the Diocese of Cloyne.
As designated person for the Diocese of Cloyne, I am subject to Safeguarding Children: Standards and Guidance Document for the Catholic Church in Ireland, which is published by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church and is available on its website. Safeguarding Children is fully compliant with child protection legislation and incorporates and complements the best practice and guidance provided in Children First, the National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children, published by the Department of Health and Children.
Safeguarding Children sets out how I must go about my role as designated person. It requires me, on receiving information about an allegation, to carry out a number of steps, including:
- the immediate informing of the Health Service Executive and An Garda Síochána; and,
- the conducting of interviews with the accused person. I am specifically required to inform him of the identity of the complainant and the nature and detail of the allegation. Safeguarding Children also states that the accused person must be given enough detail about the allegation, to be able to offer a response.
I am most reluctant to speak publicly about an individual allegation. However, as my actions and motivations have been sharply criticised in the public domain, I feel I must clarify the situation within the bounds of what is legally permissible during the on-going criminal investigation.
This allegation was notified to me by Faoiseamh in May 2009. On the same day, I reported it to the Gardaí and the to HSE. On the following day, in accordance with current policy, the accused priest was stood aside from ministry to allow the allegation to be investigated.
In June, 2009, I met with the complainant for the purpose of receiving the complaint and enabling the necessary next steps to be taken. I created a record of the meeting and forwarded it to the complainant for the purpose of having the complainant verify its accuracy. I did not receive a reply.
I again met with the accused priest to inform him of the substance of the allegation against him. In order to ensure that the complaint was accurately and clearly conveyed, I read to him my notes of my meeting with the complainant. The accused priest subsequently requested a copy of these notes, as was his entitlement, and these were furnished to him through his Priest Adviser. When I furnished this record this was not in any way connected to the Garda investigation or to a pending Garda interview with the accused priest. Indeed, I did not know at that time when the Gardaí intended to interview the accused priest in connection with this complaint.
Whilst I believe that my actions were consistent with both State and Church guidelines in this area, I am deeply upset that the complainant feels distressed by my actions. This was never my intention.
Martin Long, Catholic Communications Office, Maynooth, 086 172 7678