Taoiseach Micheál Martin has confirmed that there will be a government inquiry into allegations of sexual abuse by members of the Spiritans order in Blackrock College, Dublin, and elsewhere.
“We have to identify the best way forward in a victim-led way,” Martin told reporters on November 19.
“I think inevitably, that means some form of inquiry would have to be established here.
“We’d have to take on board the views of victims, and also identify the most effective way to conduct an inquiry.”
It emerged last week that 233 people had made allegations of abuse against 77 Irish Spiritans in ministries throughout Ireland and abroad. The congregation has since said the alleged victims’ figure could be around 300 after it received more than 60 additional claims of abuse.
Martin said he could not rule out the possibility that the probe would be widened as allegations against the Jesuits have also been made.
Also, the Franciscan Province of Ireland has received 124 allegations of sexual abuse of children made against 26 friars. Four friars were prosecuted in the courts for the sexual offenses, and three were convicted, two of whom are deceased. The congregation has paid €3,857,000 in settlements to victims/survivors.
In a statement to The Irish Times this week, the Franciscan congregation said, “We, the friars of the Franciscan Province of Ireland, apologize unreservedly to any child or young person who was abused whilst in our care, either in our school, Franciscan College, Gormanston, or in other ministry settings.”
The statement pointed out the congregation has been audited by the Health Service Executive and by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland.
It said it is committed to maintaining the highest standards in responding to complaints of abuse and continues to minister in accordance with best practice and in accordance with the relevant legislation.
Meanwhile, former Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said that some of the abusers “should never have been teachers.”
He told RTÉ Radio One that the number of allegations from Blackrock College is “frightening.”
“The numbers were frightening because they were all in the one institution and a very prestigious institution, and here were perpetrators who eat with one another, who lived with one another, who knew one another,” he said.
“I don’t know at any particular moment how many horrendous abusers lived together at any one time in that community. It’s hard to fathom.
“Some of these men were extraordinarily violent men. Some of these people should never have been teachers and certainly they should never have been allowed to be teachers in a boarding school.
“On reflection, boarding school is obviously a place where you need double protection.”
The Spiritan Congregation, formerly the Holy Ghost Fathers, has given a public apology to victims and announced that an independent group would engage with survivors of abuse at schools and institutions decades ago.
The horrendous scandal was unveiled recently by brothers Mark and David Ryan in an RTÉ Radio documentary.
Their revelation unleashed a torrent of harrowing stories of child sex abuse in religious-run schools, with the names of the same pedophile priests coming up again and again.
*This column first appeared in the November 23 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.