Safeguarding Children – Message of Bishop Kevin to the People of Elphin Diocese

Safeguarding Children – Message of Bishop Kevin to the People of Elphin Diocese

I welcome the Letter of Pope Francis to the People of God, on the question of the important responsibility that we, as Church, have for the safeguarding of children. I welcome also the comments which he made on the safeguarding of children in his various addresses during the World Meeting of Families. Child abuse brings devastation to the lives of all who are touched by it. There is no room for complacency. Actions speak louder than words.

As I did on a number of other occasions since becoming Bishop of Elphin, it is my intention in October to publish my periodic report to the people of the Diocese on safeguarding matters. In the light of the present heightened awareness of safeguarding issues, both in Ireland and in the wider world, however, I want to offer, here and now, the following basic information with a view to reassuring families that the Diocese of Elphin does take safeguarding very seriously:

  1. The Diocese has a full-time Director of Safeguarding, Ms. Mary Nicholson, whose task it is to ensure that all clergy – and parish volunteers who may have involvement with children – are fully aware of the current Standards and Procedures agreed by the Irish Bishops, under the guidance of the National Board for Safeguarding.
  1. Any person who has suffered abuse in this Diocese, or who has relevant information about abuse is invited to contact me directly, or to make contact with either of the two Designated Liaison Persons, Mary Nicholson and Helen Diskin, both of whom are highly experienced professionals. Alternatively an allegation or an expression of concern may be made directly to Tusla or to the Garda Siochána (details below).
  1. Any allegation of child abuse received by the Diocese is referred without delay to the appropriate civil authorities, to whom any relevant information or documentation in the possession of the Diocese is made available. Reporting to the civil authorities has been standard practice in the Diocese for many years, thanks to the work of Bishop Christopher Jones and his advisors.
  1. While facing up to child abuse is always painful, any delay in doing so only places children at risk. The sooner a complaint is made, the easier it is to investigate it. There is, however, no “statute of limitations” in respect of child abuse in Ireland.
  1. The Diocese of Elphin, in partnership with all of the other Dioceses of Ireland and the Association of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland, offers an independent free counselling service, Towards Healing. We also offer a free service, Towards Peace, for those who seek spiritual assistance in the context of abuse. Details are provided below.
  1. Some months ago, as part of the implementation of the Children First Act 2015, all clergy and other key personnel working with children became “mandated persons”. In other words, each one is now individually legally responsible for reporting to Tusla “any knowledge, belief, or reasonable suspicion that a child has been harmed, is being harmed, or is at risk of being harmed”.
  1. There is no priest or deacon currently in active ministry in our Diocese against whom an allegation of child abuse has been sustained, or who is currently under investigation as a result of any safeguarding concern.
  1. All priests and deacons, in common with other key staff and volunteers, are Garda Vetted in accordance with the law, every three years. All seminarians are Garda vetted before they are accepted into formation.
  1. All guest priests, coming from Dioceses overseas to minister in Elphin, are required to submit, in advance, a Testimonial Letter from their bishop or religious superior which confirms that there are no concerns about their exercise of their ministry, specifically in respect of safeguarding. Where such a thing exists, they are also required to produce a police certificate from their country of residence.
  1. Every parish in the Diocese has at least one trained volunteer Safeguarding Representative, whose task is to have an overview of safeguarding practices and procedures in the parish and to alert the Parish Priest and the Director of Safeguarding of any areas of concern.

These are just some of the principal steps that have been taken by our Diocese to protect children by preventing abuse. The One Church approach of the Catholic Church in Ireland, together with a more robust legal framework has certainly made a difference.

We, in the Church, can never say that there is no risk, any more than we can say it in our families. The best protection will come from ordinary people keeping their eyes and ears open and having the courage to speak, if – in any situation – they know, believe or reasonably suspect that a child has been harmed, is being harmed, or is at risk of being harmed.

Bishop Kevin

Safeguarding and Support Contacts
Designated Liaison Persons of Elphin Diocese

·         Mary Nicholson, St. Mary’s, Temple Street, Sligo. Tel: 086 3750277

·         Helen Diskin, St. Mary’s, Temple Street, Sligo. Tel: 087 0516888

Tusla Duty Social Worker Contacts

 

·         Boyle  0719662087

·         Sligo  0719155133

·         Castlerea  0949621155

·         Carrick-on-Sh.  0719650324/0872033267

·         Roscommon  0906637528

·         Tubbercurry  0719120062/0879299666

·         Galway City  091523122

 

 

·         Athlone  0906483106

·         Tuam  09326800

·         Castlebar  0949022333

·         Oughterard  091552200

·         Ballina  09621511

·         Loughrea  091847820

·         Swinford  0949251900

Garda Confidential Service        1800 666 111
Towards Healing www.towardshealing.ie 1800 303416
Towards Peace www.towardspeace.ie (01) 5053028 OR (086) 7710533