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Church criticised in abuse probe
Church scene
Over 100 allegations of abuse were made against priests
An Irish government inquiry into child abuse in a County Wexford diocese has uncovered over 100 allegations of sexual abuse by priests.

The 271-page Ferns report said the allegations were made against 21 priests who had been working in the diocese between 1966-2002.

The report said police investigations into claims of abuse were inadequate.

It also criticised bishops in the diocese for failing to take basic precautions to protect children.

Minister for Children Brian Lenihan presented the dossier to the Irish government on Tuesday.

The two-year investigation into the allegations of abuse was chaired by retired supreme court judge Frank Murphy.

Six of the 21 priests have been named in the report but 15 others are identified by numbers as allegations against them have not been proven in the courts.

'Moral problem'

It said that between 1960 and 1980, the then bishop of Ferns, Donal Herlihy, treated child sexual abuse in his diocese as an "exclusively moral problem".

Priests who were accused of abuse were transferred to a different post or different diocese for a time, but were later returned to their former position, the report found.

A second senior clergyman, Bishop Brendan Comiskey, was also heavily criticised.

The report stated he had consistently failed to have priests step aside because he considered it unjust as allegations of abuse were not substantiated.

Administrator of the Diocese of Ferns, Bishop Eamonn Walsh, welcomed the report and said he "accepted and acknowledged" its findings.

He said the church "unreservedly and sincerely apologised to all who have suffered abuse".

I think it is shocking to everybody's sense of how children should be protected
Bertie Ahern
Irish Taoiseach

"For those who have been abused, or in cases where that abuse was compounded by the response or lack of response by the diocese, words of apology cannot be left unspoken," he said.

Speaking as the document was published, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said immediate action would be taken to implement the recommendations contained in the dossier.

"It is a catalogue of serial abuse and gross dereliction of duty in the diocese of Ferns," he said.

"I think it is shocking to everybody's sense of how children should be protected.

"Our thoughts go out to the victims and their families. The report brings out the full horror of their situation ... and catalogues the continuing failure to respond adequately in Ferns until recent years.

'Damning indictment'

"It's obviously shocking that it went on for decades."

Mr Ahern also said that the government accepted the report's recommendations in principle and would work towards implementing them immediately.

Opposition leader Enda Kenny said: "The detail is scandalous and brings shame on a civilised society. It is a shocking wake-up call to the Church and the state."

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said the report was another damning indictment of how Irish society had failed to protect children.

"This cruelty, consisting not just of sexual abuse of children, but of institutionalised silence and inaction, served not only to traumatise and hurt children but also served to make these children feel that they were to blame for the abuse perpetrated on them," a spokesman said.

Bishops discuss child abuse
22 Apr 02 |  Northern Ireland

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