By JIMMY GUERIN and HELEN BRUCE in The Sunday Independent
Health boards facing questions over their handling of suspected paedophiles within their workforce
THE State faces serious questions over its failure to prevent suspected paedophiles from working with children.
Two cases uncovered by the Sunday Independent suggest that one health board continued to employ the suspected abuser and took seven months to warn local youth groups.
Another did not appear to alert childcare authorities in Britain after a childcare worker fled Ireland when a warrant was issued for his arrest.
The revelations come as the Catholic Church in Ireland finds itself in the line of fire from victims of clerical sexual abuse. It has been accused of covering up a series of scandals and shielding the propertrators from justice.
Now it has emerged that an alleged paedophile continued to work at a hospital in the south-east, even after the Health Board declared that he had sexually abused children.
The man abused two children, aged seven and 10, while working as an orderly in the hospital. The gardai were notified, but the children'sparents refused to press charges in a bid to spare the victims extra suffering.
The South Eastern Health Board, having assessed the children at a community child centre, and deeming their evidence to be credible, then awarded the man a new role in another part of the complex.
Aware of the allegations in December 1999, the board waited until July 2000 before it informed a local athletics association, where the man was involved, of its concerns.
Evidence of the health board's knowledge of the case was disclosed in a letter seen by the Sunday Independent. The letter to John Magner, the regional manager of the SEHB, was written by Peter Kieran, regional co-ordinator of the board's child care services.
Mr Kieran wrote: "The Board has a corporate responsibility under the Child Care Act 1991 to be proactive in protecting children.
"The Community Care Centre reports on the two children do establish that their account is credible, and indicates that the man in question did engage in abusive behaviour. Because we know that he is involved in sports and leisure activities with children up to the age of 18 years, we have a duty to inform the relevant organisations."
Mr Kieran confirmed that Community Care Services had sent a notification to the gardai about the case.
He added that the alleged paedophile had been spoken to by a childcare manager, and asked to "cease his involvement in youth sports organisations" including becoming a steward at the Community Games but had declined. It was only then that the board decided to contact the clubs direct.
The chairman of a local athletics club asked a member of the community care staff if a report about the paedophile had been received, and was told to request a meeting with the child care manager.
At the subsequent meeting on July 27, the club chairman was told that the Health Board would not discuss the details until it had contacted the alleged paedophile, a response which angered the athletics club chairman.
According to a letter written by the childcare manager, detailing the meeting with the athletics club chairman to Tom Beegan, deputy chief executive of the SEHB, the alleged paedophile and his solicitor were unwilling to co-operate.
She wrote: "X and his solicitor had difficulty accepting that the board had the right to inform organisations regarding this allegation."
As a result of a discussion between the board, the alleged abuser and his solicitor, it was agreed the board would not disclose the detail of the incidents, and would only confirm to the relevant clubs that there were allegations of sexual abuse made.
Meanwhile, more facts have emerged following last week's Sunday Independent report that a religious order gave a reference to a paedophile childcare worker who had sexually abused two young brothers.
The then Eastern Health Board settled a case concerning the nine-year-old boys out of court, but a spokesman last week could not confirm it had ever reported the allegations to childcare authorities in Britain.
Posted by paul at October 27, 2002 01:40 AM