Child safeguarding measures increase as level of complaints decrease

12 Jun 2015

An ongoing decline in the number of abuse allegations against priests has allowed the Dublin Diocesan Safeguarding service to significantly increase the level of child protection training it offers to parishes.

Today  (Friday 12 June) the SCPS, Child Safeguarding and Protection Service, launched its annual update of statistical information and also highlighted the availability of Towards Peace, a national service aimed at providing spiritual support to victims of abuse.

The Director of Safeguarding for the Dublin Archdiocese, Andrew Fagan, said the number of allegations of abuse processed by the service has dropped significantly over the past five years.  This has allowed them to apply more resources in the area of safeguarding and increase the effort around prevention of child abuse.

This includes providing training to child safeguarding representatives in parishes, meeting regularly with parish teams and identifying and improving areas where prevention measures can be improved.

Close to 1,000 people availed of training and information services last year.  The number of Dublin Diocesan trainers accredited by the National Board has increased and another 7,000 people including clergy, lay staff and volunteers were Garda vetted.

Mr Fagan paid tribute to the many external agencies represented that supported them in their work, including members of An Garda Síochána and representatives from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.  He said it was also crucial to the work of the SCPS that they can rely on the support and expertise of the staff of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church and organisations that support those who have experienced sexual crime.  He said over the years they have developed very positive working relationships with One in Four, the Rape Crisis Centre and others.

Presenting an update of the Child Protection Information for the past year, Mr. Fagan said that while there was an increase in the number of priests who were the subject of a complaint of abuse, the overall number of such complaints has declined steadily in recent years.  They were running at about 100 per annum in 2010/2011 but over the past two years there have been less than 40 per annum.  He said this decline reflects the experience of the Church counselling service, Towards Healing, who published their annual report earlier this week.  “For us that mean that less of our time is taken up with case work, freeing us up to do much more work of a preventive nature.  But there can be no room for complacency,” he added.

Those assembled also heard from representatives of Towards Peace, a spiritual support service for those affected by abuse within a Church context.  This initiative arose out of discussions between representatives of survivor groups and members of the Bishops’ Conference.  One woman who has experienced the Towards Peace support spoke of her experience and why spiritual direction and companionship is an important part of the journey of reconciliation and healing.

Safeguarding Children in the Archdiocese of Dublin
What have we learned, where we are now, what next?

Speaking notes of  Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin  Archbishop of Dublin

Holy Cross College, Clonliffe, 12 June 2015

“First of all I would like to thank Andrew Fagan and his team – and those working in our parishes, for the work they have been doing over these years in establishing and embedding effective safeguarding practices right across the Archdiocese.

I have been asked to respond to a threefold question:  what have we learned, where are we now, what next?   The answer to all three questions is the same:  there is no room for complacency.

From the past, we have learned that for many years Church leaders thought they knew how best to deal with child abuse by clergy and they had locked themselves into complacency;   it took years then to get norms in place;  it took years even to get the information that was in our files into shape;  it took years to put into place the action which we knew was necessary;  it took years to learn that survivors were not people out to challenge the Church;  survivors and their families had simply got things right.

Where are we now?  The culture of safeguarding is being imbedded within the Church and great credit is due to the many lay men and women who offer their service willingly and voluntarily, working with their priests, to ensure that this is so and remains so.   There is a long way to go.   Paradoxically, the good things that have been achieved could become a temptation towards complacency.   There is a tendency for people to feel that the child abuse challenge has been addressed and we can let our protective fences down.  There is a tendency among some to say that the Church over-reacted, perhaps understandably, but now we can get back to a regime that is somehow less robust.  It would be foolish to think that all our structures have fully satisfactory safeguarding procedures in place.  There is no room for complacency.  We need vigilance.

Where are we going?  The future lies in keeping a culture of safeguarding alive in our parishes, among clergy, in our schools and activities and institutions.

That said there are remarkable changes.  Who would have thought just a few years ago that in a major radio interview, Marie Collins would be the one challenging Church authorities as one representing the positions of the Pope?

Towards Healing and Towards Peace are two organisations which are reaching out to survivors to help them on the journey of healing and peace.  The National Board has completed its audits of dioceses and hopefully the audits of Religious Congregations will be completed by the end of this year.  But that does not mean that the book has reached its final chapter and can now be closed.  Audit and accountability must remain an essential pillar of Church structures, perhaps in new ways, but always respecting the autonomy of the National Board.

The results of the audits have at times been far from satisfactory.  That shows that the culture of safeguarding is not evenly imbedded across the Church and that is a cause of concern.   Survivors are still coming forward which means that for years they have been suffering without feeling able to tell their story and share their grief.

But we also have to say “full marks” to all those who have worked for a real sea-change in the attitude and practice of the Church in safeguarding and who have made the Church today a much safer place for children thus making the work of evangelising and bringing the message of Jesus to our young people more effective.  ENDS

Archdiocese of Dublin Child Safeguarding Annual Update of Information 2015

  • In the past 12 months over 7,000 people were Garda vetted through the Archdiocese.  This includes bishops, priests, parish and diocesan staff, support staff in schools and agency workers.  The total number of people vetted through the Diocesan system now stands at 45,000.
  • In the past 12 months almost 1,000 people participated in safeguarding training or information sessions in parish and group settings.
  • Since last year another five priests of the Archdiocese have been the subject of allegations of child sexual abuse.  Three of these were deceased and two retired.  This brings to 106 the number of priests of Dublin who have been accused of abuse since 1940.  This figure records the number of priests who were the subject of allegations of abuse received by the Archdiocese.  This includes allegations of abuse that were confirmed, allegations that were inconclusive and allegations that were unfounded.
  • 12 priests or former priests have been convicted in the criminal courts (no change).
  • 262 civil actions have been taken against 53 priests or former priests of the Diocese.  202 cases have concluded and 60 are on-going.
  • The costs, to date, to the Archdiocese of settlement of claims regarding child sexual abuse by priests is currently €21.4 million (€14.6 million in settlements and €6.8 million in legal costs for both sides).


Further Information: Annette O Donnell, Director of Communications,