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Irish government widens sex-abuse probe

January 07, 2009

The Irish government has announced plans to expand a probe into Church treatment of sex-abuse complaints against priests, following up on reports of gross mistreatment of complaints in the Cloyne diocese. The government will ask an existing commission, which is now concluding its investigation into sex-abuse problems in the Dublin archdiocese, to continue its probe in Cloyne.

Barry Andrews, the government's minister for children's affairs, convinced the cabinet to approve the expanded investigation in light of public outrage over the handling of sex-abuse complaints in Cloyne, where an independent inquiry commissioned by the Church had found that the diocese failed to follow established guidelines for investigating complaints.

Andrews made his recommendation as he released the text of the government's own investigation into the problem. While the government report did not call for a separate probe in any diocese outside Dublin, the cabinet minister cited the latest revelations from Cloyne as justification for a broader investigation. "It is unacceptable that full and faithful reporting of child sexual abuse allegations should not take place," Andrews argued. Cloyne's Bishop John Magee, already under heavy pressure to resign because of his handling of the sex-abuse issue, will come under fresh scrutiny with the new government investigation. Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh welcomed the expanded inquiry, acknowledging that the reports from Cloyne "have brought further anxiety to victims of abuse." Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, appearing on a Dublin television program before the government's announcement, said that he was not ready to join in the call for Bishop Magee's resignation. But in discussing his own response to reports of sexual abuse, the archbishop said that he would be tempted to "murder" anyone who molested the children of his relatives or friends.

In Cloyne, defenders of Bishop Magee had argued that the report by the National Board for Safeguarding Children-- the agency commissioned by the Church-- had bee "seriously flawed" in its treatment of the problem, and "defamatory" in its accusations against diocesan leaders. The release of that critique (which had been made last year, before the report became public) prompted One in Four, a group representing sex-abuse victims, with a new opportunity to condemn the "contemptible" attitude of the diocese.


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