Derry diocese co-ordinator welcomes Catholic Church abuse review

The co-ordinator of child-safeguarding in the Derry Diocese has said she believes the audit into the handling of allegations of sex abuse against 23 of its priests highlights the challenges she and her committee face for the future.

Mary McCafferty was responding to the publication of six reports by the Catholic Church's National Board for Safeguarding Children.

One of the reports centred on allegations of abuse in the Derry diocese.

It found the diocese had dealt with allegations against 23 of its priests.

A total of 31 allegations had been reported to the police in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The report said 33 allegations had been made to social services.

A total of four priests against whom allegations were made had left the priesthood or were ''out of ministry".

The Derry report said: "Those who have suffered child abuse should receive a compassionate and just response and should be offered appropriate pastoral care to rebuild their lives.

"Those who have harmed others should be helped to face up to the reality of abuse, as well as being assisted in healing."

Ms McCafferty said the victims were the priority.

"Over the last four plus years I have met a number of victims, some of whom have carried their past for decades," she said.

"I have nothing but admiration for the courage it takes for that human being to meet with a stranger, which is what I am to them, when they come forward and disclose to me the horror of their past.

"I will listen to them, I will explain the process to them and I will offer them the support that is available and that is my role."

She said she understood that some victims felt they had not been listened to.

"What I would suggest to any victim is that, unfortunately, in the past they didn't get the reception they felt they should have - I would like to think that will never happen in the future," she said.

"We have in place today all sorts of support mechanisms, very good counselling services for victims which are available to everyone, that should make a difference.

"If victims come forward and say, 'I wasn't happy,' I would ask them, 'what would you like, what do you think would help you?' I can only speak for my role as designated officer and the victim is the focus of all of this," she added.

John Heaney, 53, who was abused by other children at a home run by the Catholic Church in Derry, said the review was "a PR exercise by the Church to get people back into Mass".

"It's a disgrace, this is only about saying, 'Look at what we've put in place, look how great we are now'. Well it's too late, not even a hint of an apology," he said.

"If you look at the report, there's not one mention of prior 1975 victims, there is no mention of any type of help or support for those people still suffering to this day due to the abuse."

Six reports published by the Catholic Church in Ireland on Wednesday revealed there were child abuse allegations against 85 priests across the dioceses.

They covered the period from 1975 until the present.

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