7 Dec 2010

Irish bishop rejects advice from group he appointed to address child protection issues, refuses to remove two accused priests from youth retreat

Irish Times - June 5, 2010

Bishop resists lay call to move priests accused of child abuse

PATSY McGARRY, Religious Affairs Correspondent

A CATHOLIC bishop and a religious congregation have refused to remove two priests accused of child sex abuse from a retreat centre in east Galway that is attended regularly by groups of young people.

This is despite a recommendation for their removal by a lay group appointed by the bishop to address child protection issues in his diocese.

Both Bishop John Kirby of Clonfert and the provincial of the Redemptorist congregation, which runs the centre at Esker, have told The Irish Times in statements that they are satisfied the situation is being managed correctly.

Confirming that the two priests had child sex abuse allegations made against them, “relating to some 30-35 years ago”, and were “living in our Esker community”, Redemptorist provincial Fr Michael Kelleher said “both are out of ministry, have no contact with children, have support people and live within strict supervisory and monitoring criteria”.

He said the Garda and the HSE were aware of the allegations and of the accused priests’ current arrangements. “The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSC) has been informed of the detail of both cases and supports our management plans for their ongoing supervision,” he said.

When asked about this, NBSC chief executive Ian Elliot said he did not comment on individual cases.

Bishop Kirby said he was happy “the Redemptorists have done all that is needed for the supervision of these individuals. The community has acted professionally and in accord with best practice”.

However, the Clonfert child safeguarding committee strongly advised Bishop Kirby that it was inappropriate for the priests to remain at Esker.

It suggested that Bishop Kirby inform schools and youth groups and that the two priests be transferred to a safe environment.

The committee wrote to the HSE in Galway this week formally requesting that it inspect the facilities at Esker. The committee includes a retired Garda superintendent, a priest/teacher, a secondary teacher, two social workers, a retired clinical nurse manager and a HSE child services manager.

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