Pope's visit

Clerical sex abuse scandals in Ireland

Pope Francis this week apologised in an open letter to Catholics worldwide about the abuse scandal. Picture by AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
Cate McCurry, Press Association

CLERICAL child sex abuse scandals have rocked the Catholic Church in Ireland over the last two decades.

Allegations of abuse by clerics and members of the Catholic institutions began to emerge from the late 1980s.

However, it was not until the 1990s that revelations of paedophile priests and sex abuse in children's homes was publicly exposed following pressure from victims and survivors as well as public opinion and media reports.

A number of criminal cases and government inquiries exposed the extent of horrific crimes and uncovered details of how hundreds of priests abused thousands of children over decades.

:: Paedophile priest Brendan Smyth

One of the most infamous cases was Belfast-born paedophile Brendan Smyth who abused more than 140 children over four decades.

The mishandling of his extradition after he went on the run to the Republic led to the collapse of an Irish government and the revelations sparked several inquiries on both sides of the border.

:: The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse

Commonly known as the Ryan Report, it looked into child abuse in institutions run by religious orders.

Established in May 2000, it documented the rape and sexual assault of children, who were kicked, physically assaulted, and forced to carry out labour.

The 2009 report made a number of recommendations including those to help protect children.

:: The Ferns Report

Published in October 2005, it documented over 100 allegations of child sexual abuse between 1962 and 2002 against 21 priests in the Diocese of Ferns in the south-east of Ireland.

The report found that Bishop Donal Herlihy treated child sexual abuse by priests exclusively as a moral problem.

:: The Murphy Report

The 2009 report investigated allegations of child sexual abuse by priests in the Archdiocese of Dublin from 1975 to 2004.

Released by Judge Yvonne Murphy, it examined complaints about alleged sexual abuse of over 320 children. Clergy and gardaí were accused in the report of covering up the scandal.

:: The Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry

It looked into historical allegations of abuse in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995 with most complaints stemming from four different Catholic-run institutions.

Chaired by Sir Anthony Hart, it found priests and lay people sexually abused children. It recommended compensation, a memorial and public apology to abuse survivors, but this has been delayed following the collapse of the Stormont assembly.

:: Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes

This was established following claims of mass burials of hundreds of children in Tuam, Co Galway.

There has also been evidence of illegal adoptions in Church-run institutions. The investigation is ongoing.

:: Papal apology

In March 2010, Pope Benedict XVI wrote a pastoral letter of apology for all of the abuse that had been carried out by Catholic clergy in Ireland and established a formal panel to investigate the scandal.

Pope Francis this week also apologised in an open letter to Catholics worlwide, saying "no effort will be spared to prevent abuse and its cover up" in the future.

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