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Critics rap Ireland on child abuse

By Shawn Pogatchnik
Associated Press / May 22, 2009
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DUBLIN - Child-abuse activists warned yesterday that Ireland failed to learn the lessons from decades of unchecked brutality inside Catholic Church-run schools and still offers poor protection to vulnerable boys and girls.

This week's mammoth report into the abuse of thousands of children in Catholic-run schools blamed successive Irish governments for permitting rape and other sadistic practices inside the tax-funded facilities throughout most of the 20th century.

The authors of the nine-year investigation offered a long list of recommendations to toughen and modernize the way children - particularly those in state care - are supervised and protected. The proposals included 24-hour emergency social care, surprise inspections of children's homes, and more rigorous enforcement of existing rules.

The government of Prime Minister Brian Cowen said it will enact the improvements as quickly as possible. Those on the front lines of child protection were skeptical.

"People would be wrong to think that the danger is behind us," said Maeve Lewis, whose Dublin pressure group One in Four publicizes child sexual abuse in Ireland. "Ireland's child protection policies are still a generation behind the standards in the United Kingdom and the United States. Our leaders are far too complacent."

Lewis noted that a string of child-abuse scandals involving church and lay abusers inspired a string of official inquiries and nearly 200 recommendations since 1993.

"Most of those recommendations have never been implemented," Lewis said. "If we do not finally begin to put the needs of children first, all of us will be sitting here in 30 years' time, talking about some other scandal that somehow evaded our attention or care."

Ireland's minister for children, Barry Andrews, said the government was determined to strengthen child protection.