Priests blamed for ‘significant percentage’ of sex abuse cases

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Friday 12 August 2011 

By Greg Harkin

A “SIGNIFICANT percentage” of complaints to counselling services in Co Donegal relate to allegations about clerical sex abuse.

The National Counselling Service for the north-west has dealt with 2,000 abuse victims in the past 10 years, of which 1,200 were in Donegal.

Director of the HSE-run service Tom McGrath said patient confidentiality prevented him from breaking the figures down but there was a “significant percentage” who claimed they had been abused by priests.

He was speaking as the Bishop of Raphoe Dr Philip Boyce reacted angrily to reports in the Irish Independent that 20 priests had abused hundreds of children in the diocese.

The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church is currently completing an audit into abuse allegations going back to 1975.

The report will be based on files given to it by the Raphoe Diocese and will be published in the next few weeks.

“I would not be surprised to see hundreds of victims,” said Mr McGrath.

“This report will deal with victims going back to 1975.

“Of course, the number of people we deal with does not take account of those who go elsewhere for counselling such as the Rape Crisis Centre or private practitioners.”

Mr McGrath said the HSE counselling service would put extra resources in place to coincide with the publication of the Raphoe audit.

“We will have extra phonelines and extra counsellors on hand when we know the exact date the report is being published,” he said.

Meanwhile, a former garda detective told the Irish Independent that the Catholic Church knows the identities of at least 10 priests who abused children in the Raphoe Diocese.

Martin Ridge, who investigated crimes by paedophile priest Fr Eugene Greene, insisted a full Cloyne-style inquiry was needed to “root out the truth”.

“The church has admitted knowing about 10 priests in the diocese of Raphoe against which child sexual abuse allegations were made,” said Mr Ridge. “There are others outside of that 10 against whom allegations have been made.

“But for me, it is not the numbers of people involved in abusing or the numbers who were abused, this is about the fact it took place at all — and how the church failed time and again to deal with it.

“In the Greene case, there were 16 victims in one parish. And he served in at least seven other parishes that we know of; there were hundreds of kids whose lives were destroyed by Greene and the others.”

Mr Ridge said the audit would be damning. “I have no doubt about that. But it must be followed by a Cloyne-style investigation,” he said.

The Bishop of Raphoe Philip Boyce reacted angrily to the Irish Independent report, saying it was “inaccurate, misleading and as such not in the public interest”.

He said the claim that hundreds of victims had been abused while the church had thwarted investigations was “simply not true”.

He said all allegations of abuse made known to the Diocese of Raphoe were now reported to the gardai and the HSE.

“As I have stated on many occasions, I invited Ian Elliot and his team from the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church to conduct a review of the diocesan files relating to child abuse allegations. I gave them my full co-operation and they examined all files,” the bishop said.

“When I receive the final report from the National Board, I am committed to publishing the review. I will be happy to respond to media queries at that time.”

– Greg Harkin

Irish Independent

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