With Donegal back in the headlines again yesterday amidst claims a report into the Raphoe diocese will reveal how up to 20 paedophile priests abused hundreds of children over a 40-year period the head of the HSE’s National Counselling Service (NCS), Tom McGrath confirmed to the ‘Journal’ up to 40 referrals a month were being dealt with by the NCS in Buncrana.
Mr. McGrath said the service was ‘very busy’ during its two day weekly outreach service in the Inishowen town.
And he added: “I would anticipate that this will only go one way - up.”
While Mr. McGrath, who previously worked in Inishowen as a psychologist, said Donegal as a whole ‘might be slighly above average’ in regard to abuse reportage we were still pretty much on a par with the rest of the county
His comments come against a background of the lead story in the ‘Irish Independent’ which claimed a report into Raphoe would be “horrific” and outlined a catalogue of allegations ‘against priests who abused young children and senior colleagues who failed their victims’.
“There were hundreds and hundreds of victims,” one source is said to have told the Irish Independent, “and they were abused again and again while the church actively prevented investigations by the civil authorities.
The ‘Indo’ source went on: “The Raphoe diocese, like others, was only interested in protecting the church and not the victims”
The article, written by former Derry Journal Managing Director, Greg Harkin claims that in one case a priest who raped young boys in one of Raphoe’s 33 parishes was “sent away” for less than a month after the parents of a young boy made a complaint to the church.
The priest in question was then moved through several other parishes over a 30-year period as the diocese failed again and again to deal with him.
“He continued to target young boys and abuse them. Gardai were never informed of the allegations.”
When gardai did become involved in a number of investigations, the church was, according to the Independent, ‘uncooperative, obstructive and misled detectives.’
However, in an unprecedented move by church authorities in Raphoe, Bishop Phillip Boyce moved quickly to totally reject the claims in a statement issued early yesterday.
He stated: “In response to the alarmist article in today’s ‘Irish Independent’, I wish to state that it is inaccurate, misleading and as such is not in the public interest.
“I intend formally to complain about the matter. I am shocked to read a sentence in the article stating that: “There were hundreds and hundreds of victims, and they were abused again and again while the church actively prevented investigations by the civil authorities”.
“I wish to assure the people of the Diocese of Raphoe that this assertion is simply not true. Furthermore it is seriously damaging to the good work of the many trained volunteers who are actively committed to safeguarding children in all of the parishes of the diocese”
Bishop Boyce said all allegations of abuse made known to the Diocese of Raphoe are reported to An Garda Síochána and the Health Service Executive.
“ I gave them my full co-operation and they examined all files. When I receive the final report from the National Board, probably next month, I am committed to publishing the review.”