Check Against Delivery

Today we are publishing the report of the Commission of Investigation into the Archdiocese of Dublin.

Earlier this year we had the Ryan report. 

That dealt with the fate of thousands of children who had been placed by the state in residential institutions almost entirely run by the religious. 

What is at issue here is children who were living in the community who were abused by clergy. 

The Commission were asked to look at a representative sample of how allegations of abuse against clerics in the Archdiocese over the period 1975 to 2004 were handled by the Church and State authorities. 

The only changes that have been made to the Report have been those ordered by the High Court because of the need to avoid prejudice to criminal trials - to avoid the possibility that the perpetrators of this awful abuse would walk free.

Words cannot easily describe the depth of emotions people will feel when they read this report. 

Its publication will inevitably revive painful memories and potentially cause distress to people who were victims of abuse. That is why both state and non-state agencies are coming together to provide support for people through special contact numbers. 

The Gardaí will today establish special contact arrangements for victims and citizens to come forward with any new information which could help put these abusers behind bars.

There must be people out there who hold some memory, some fact which can help us bring these people before justice. As Minister for Justice I want to appeal directly to those people to come forward now. Contact the Gardaí.

I read the report as Justice Minister.

But on a human level - as a father and as a member of this community - I felt a growing sense of revulsion and anger. Revulsion at the horrible evil acts committed against children. Anger at how those children were then dealt with and how often abusers were left free to abuse.

But the white heat of our anger should not for one moment deflect us from what needs to be done. 

The persons who committed these dreadful crimes - no matter when they happened - will continue to be pursued. They must come to know that there is no hiding place.  That justice - even where it may have been delayed - will not be denied. 

And there is a clear duty on us all to ensure that everything possible is done to prevent such abuse happening in the future. And where it does happen that noone is above or beyond the law.

What this report is about is not whether that type of abuse was perpetrated by clergy in the Archdiocese of Dublin. The existence of that type of abuse was well established when the Commission was set up. Instead, the Commission was asked to establish how allegations of abuse were handled by the Church authorities and by State authorities.

I place on record my appreciation of the valuable work done by the Commission.

The Commission acknowledge that they could not have carried out their work without the full cooperation of many of the victims of abuse. 

It took immense courage for victims to relive such painful experiences before the Commission. 

I have no doubt they did so, first, to discover what exactly went on in relation to their cases and, second, to do what they could to stop children being treated with such cruelty in the future. 

In one of many devastating findings the Commission conclude that victims and their families frequently behaved in a much more Christian and charitable way than the Church authorities did.

I hope today they have the comfort that at long last that these stories can be told. 

I think that it is right too that we recognise today the part played by many people, including in the media, in bringing what was going on to light.

The report speaks for itself and it is not for me to attempt to summarise its findings in relation to the Church. 

As does the Commission, I recognise the good work done down the years by many clergy. I am aware too that we would be to commit another injustice to judge the behaviour of many dedicated clergy by the behaviour of some of their number.

But there is no escaping the cruel irony that the Church, partly motivated by a desire to avoid scandal, in fact created a scandal on an astonishing scale. 

In many cases, the welfare of children counted for nothing and abusers were left free to abuse - to visit evil on the innocent.

The report catalogues evil after evil committed in the name of what was perversely seen as a greater good.

Obviously it is a matter for the Church to respond to what the report has to say about it.

While it is the case that the vast majority of the report concentrates on failings of the Church, the report also deals starkly with failings by agencies of the State. 

In some cases An Garda Síochána did not appropriately pursue allegations which were made to them. My profound regret that that should have been the case is shared by the Garda Commissioner who will today make a statement on the Report. 

We will all have to reflect on how a situation came about that in former times a culture of deference to the Catholic Church could, in some cases, have had the effect of placing the behaviour of some clergy beyond the reach of the law. 

Indeed, it is that very respect and trust which was shown to the Catholic Church as an institution that will make the findings of the report so disillusioning for many.

Whatever the reasons for it, I want to be emphatic about one thing: it is not now - nor has it ever been - acceptable that institutions behave or are treated as being above the law of the State. This is a Republic - the people are sovereign - and no institution, no agency, no church can be immune from that fact.

What is of the utmost importance now is that we continue to pursue relentlessly the perpetrators of abuse to bring them to the justice they deserve.

Whatever about institutional failings, these people should pay for their crimes.  As the report makes clear, a number are already doing so: proceedings are pending against others; and a number of investigations are ongoing.

When I got the report last July, I immediately sent it to the Garda Commissioner and the Director of Public Prosecutions. 

Since then I have discussed the matter frequently with the Commissioner. 

He has assured me that pursuing the perpetrators, whenever the abuse took place, is an absolute priority for the Force. 

As I have mentioned, he will also announce today details of special contact arrangement for people who have information that could be used in bringing perpetrators to book. 

None of us would blame people for wanting to put the dreadful brutality they suffered in their childhoods behind them, but again I appeal to people who have information to come forward to help see those involved put away. 

I can assure them that what they have to say will be investigated fully and that they will be treated with great sensitivity.

The report, in fact, is quite complimentary about current Garda arrangements for dealing with such allegations. 

And I pay tribute to the professionalism and sensitivity of individual members of the Gardaí which that reflects.  And while there were failings on the part of the Garda Síochána, the report instances many cases where the perpetrators of this type of abuse were brought to justice without fear or favour.

Nevertheless, both the Commissioner and I accept that in this constantly evolving area of law enforcement it is necessary to continuously review our approaches to ensure that the highest standards and best international practice is maintained. 

It is against this background, after consulting with the Commissioner, that I have asked the Garda Inspectorate, as part of its programme of work, to review arrangements for Garda handling of complaints of sexual abuse against children.

My colleague, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, will in a moment outline some of the measures which have been taken and are being taken in this area to make sure we protect our children.

It is the case that there has been a sea change in recent years in this area.

But there are no grounds for complacency.

We are determined about one thing:

No Government can guarantee that in the future there won't be evil people who will do evil things.

But the era where evil people could do so under the cover of the cloth, facilitated and shielded from the consequences by their authorities, while the lives of children were ruined with such cruelty, is over for good.