October 23, 2002
Church must obey law of the land, warns Ahern


By John Downing, Nicola Cooke and Michael Brennan in The Irish Examiner

CHURCH law cannot be allowed to hamper Garda investigations into allegations of child abuse by priests, the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said last night.

Mr Ahern was speaking after the Government appointed former Supreme Court judge, Mr Justice Frank Murphy, to head an inquiry into clerical abuse allegations in Co Wexford. The Taoiseach said the Government will decide within days what form of investigation will tackle the widespread allegations of similar abuse in Dublin and other centres.

Government officials brushed aside suggestions by some senior church lawyers that they may not be able to give all relevant documents to the non-church investigators. And the Taoiseach told the Dáil that he expected nothing less than full co-operation from all including church authorities.

"The law of the land applies to all, no matter what status they hold," he said.

The spotlight remained firmly on the Archbishop of Dublin, Cardinal Desmond Connell. Announcing the Wexford investigation, Health Minister Micheál Martin remarked that it would be helpful if the cardinal spoke out publicly.

Cardinal Connell is also facing a growing revolt from within the church. A nationwide poll of priests found one in five believe the cardinal should resign over his handling of sex abuse in his diocese. Over half of the 70 priests questioned in the Irish Examiner phone survey said Cardinal Connell should stay to face the music. One in four said they did not know or refused to comment.

Fr Colm Kilcoyne, parish priest of Cong, Co Mayo and spokesperson for the National Conference of Priests of Ireland, said the church must now open its files to a proper State inquiry.

Speaking on RTÉ radio, Fr Kilcoyne said: "We know there's a problem that has been badly handled, so let's deal with it for God's sake once and for all and get on with the real business of the church."

The group One in Four, which represents victims of clerical sex abuse, last night welcomed the Wexford inquiry under Mr Justice Murphy. Spokesman Colm O'Gorman said they hoped to meet Justice Minister Michael McDowell later today and would urge him to give the judge extra powers to deal with those who fail to co-operate.

The Cabinet yesterday discussed the latest controversy arising from last Thursday's RTÉ Prime Time documentary into child abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese. Mr Ahern said he wanted everybody to co-operate with the gardaí investigating these issues, but added that it would take some days for the Cabinet to decide on the next move

Posted by paul at October 23, 2002 07:59 AM
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