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Last Updated: Friday, 28 October 2005, 08:21 GMT 09:21 UK
Diocese releases abuse statistics
Bishop Patrick Walsh
Bishop Patrick Walsh urged victims to come forward
The largest Catholic diocese in NI has released statistics which show that 15 priests have been accused of sex abuse there over the past 50 years.

Down and Connor, which released the statistics, said five priests were dead at the time of the allegations.

Three priests have been convicted and payments totalling 102,000 were made to 10 people because of two priests.

Bishop Patrick Walsh said strict procedures were now in place to protect children in the diocese.

"Anybody who feels they have been hurt, we want to help them," he said.

"We have put in place very, very strict policies and procedures in regard to child protection and there will be training for everyone in every parish in the diocese.

"Everyone who is going to be involved with children, in any way, will first of all have to be vetted and, secondly, will have to go through a very intensive course of training."

Bishop Walsh said a letter outlining what the church intends to do will be read out at weekend Masses.

Church scene
Down and Connor is the largest Catholic diocese in Northern Ireland

The statement from Down and Connor said that three priests accused are still in ministry while one investigation has recently been re-opened by police.

The priest being investigated denies the allegations which dated back more than 20 years, while the other two priests were returned to ministry after their cases were investigated in 1992 and 1996.

Two civil actions against one priest are pending, two other priests have been suspended and a further two have retired.

The latest statement follows revelations of child abuse in the Derry diocese and the findings of a report into clerical sex abuse in County Wexford earlier this week.

On Thursday, Bishop of Derry Dr Seamus Hegarty said allegations of child sex abuse had been made against 26 priests serving in his diocese over the past 50 years.

Dr Hegarty said there had been only one successful prosecution.

Bishop Hegarty investigated past and current child sex abuse allegations with the aid of an independent child welfare expert.

He said they trawled back over 50 years, a period during which 330 priests served or are still serving in the Derry diocese.

Two cases resulted in prosecutions and one of these was successful, said Dr Hegarty.

Bishop Hegarty said he published the report confident that "every allegation made against priests now serving in his diocese had been investigated and the necessary procedures followed".

To the victims, he said he "could not express enough his heartfelt and unreserved apologies".

The bishop's comments followed the Ferns inquiry which found that 21 priests had abused children in County Wexford over the past 40 years.

Abuse claims 'against 26 priests'
27 Oct 05 |  Northern Ireland
Bishop to make statement on abuse
26 Oct 05 |  Northern Ireland
Bishops discuss child abuse
22 Apr 02 |  Northern Ireland

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