I welcome the publication today by Judge Anthony Hart of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry Report.

From the outset I wish to apologise to everyone who suffered abuse perpetrated by a priest or religious. To abuse a child is a most abhorrent act, is evil and to be condemned unreservedly.

Today I am thinking in particular of the survivors of abuse and the long and difficult journey that they have travelled in order to achieve justice and official recognition of the pain and trauma visited upon them as children.

From what I have seen of the report the evidence contained in it is at times heart-breaking to read. It is clear that many adults who, in the place of parents, were meant to provide love and care to children, failed in a catastrophic manner to protect and nurture their precious charges.

Judge Hart’s report reminds us again of the appalling crimes against children committed by Father Brendan Smyth. It also reveals new information highlighting awareness by some in authority of Brendan Smyth’s criminal actions much earlier than had been previously understood. It details the many opportunities of preventing further abuse that were missed along the way and the repeated failures that enabled him to continue abusing.

The Church cannot be, and should never have been, a safe harbour for anyone responsible for abuse. I am acutely conscious that the Church has a moral responsibility to be demonstratively vigilant in the area of child safeguarding, both in order to ensure the wellbeing of children, and also to earn the confidence of parents and of children alike.

Equally, the Church cannot be found wanting in its support for the healing of those who have suffered abuse from adults purporting to embody its mission. As a minimum we owe to those who lost their childhood through abuse the highest of safeguarding standards along with a commitment to assist them in every way possible to find healing and freedom from the abuse and pain so cruelly inflicted on them in their childhood. On behalf of the diocese of Kilmore I am committed to engaging with other bodies in implementing the recommendations in the report to the best of our ability.

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