THE Government’s long-awaited inquiry into clerical sex abuse will eventually be widened to investigate the role of doctors, teachers and other professionals.
Justice Minister Michael McDowell is to bring proposals before the Cabinet next week to seek approval for a flexible inquiry to investigate the handling of abuse cases across the country.
Government sources say that while the first stage of the inquiry will be into clerical abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin, its scope will be able to examine the handling of sex abuse in other areas.
“We don’t want to have to re-invent the wheel each time a sex abuse scandal erupts, so the inquiry must be flexible enough to be able to investigate a range of areas,” one source said.
Colm O’Gorman, director of the One In Four support group for sex abuse victims, said his organisation had already handed over to gardaí details of abuse cases involving individuals in other vocational and professional fields.
Mr O’Gorman said yesterday a national inquiry with wide terms of reference which went beyond the clergy is vital. “We believe it is essential that a form of inquiry be adopted which will facilitate the examination of other vocational and professional fields where adults entrusted with the care of children and vulnerable adults grossly abused that trust, and where people with responsibility failed to deal properly with that abuse,” he said.
Yesterday in the Dáil, Mr McDowell said an inquiry with statutory powers was the best way to investigate the abuse scandals.
This means that, at least in the initial phase of the investigation into clerical abuse, the inquiry will have powers to compel individuals to appear before it. It is also likely that most of the proceedings will take place in private.
The inquiry will investigate the handling of abuse cases rather than attempt to inquire into individual cases of alleged child sex abuse.
Mr McDowell said that all sides wanted closure on the issues as soon as possible and indicated that an attempt to investigate individual cases could take years.
The Justice Minister also confirmed that initial reports from the garda team dealing with clerical abuse allegations showed they were getting full co-operation from Cardinal Desmond Connell and the Dublin Archdiocese. This is despite suggestions some clergy might refuse to co-operate because of a dispute over the relative status of canon law and civil law. Mr McDowell said there was no evidence of documents being withheld or destroyed, as some feared might happenPosted by Colm at November 28, 2002 11:52 PM