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'Urgent action' needed from three religious orders, child safeguarding report finds

A unidentified pensioner shows her Rosary beads at her home in May 2009. A report has raised concerns about child safeguarding practices in three orders. Picture by Paul McErlane
A unidentified pensioner shows her Rosary beads at her home in May 2009. A report has raised concerns about child safeguarding practices in three orders. Picture by Paul McErlane A unidentified pensioner shows her Rosary beads at her home in May 2009. A report has raised concerns about child safeguarding practices in three orders. Picture by Paul McErlane

"URGENT corrective action" is needed by three religious orders who ran schools or helped care for children across Ireland, a new report has found.

A report by The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI), the body which monitors child safeguarding practices in the church, investigated four orders: the De La Salle Brothers; the Norbertines; Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd and the Sisters of Nazareth.

It found three of the orders - the De La Salle Brothers, Norbertines and Nazareth Sisters - showed "weak or, on occasion, poor practice

which require urgent corrective action".

And it said "their performance in the recent past does not demonstrate any real change from their historical behaviour, in terms of ensuring good safeguarding practice or putting in place effective pastoral responses to complainants who have made allegations of abuse".

It listed a series of failings including:

- responses to abuse allegations were "driven by legal advisors and lacked any pastoral approach"

- delays in reporting allegations to police and child protection authorities, and in some cases reports were not made

- opportunities were missed to protect children, particularly in the case of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth

- in the case of Norbertines, there was no commitment to understanding or adopting good child safeguarding practice

The report also criticised the orders' record keeping, saying "the records relied on were not well maintained, making the work of the reviewers difficult".

It outlined the number of known allegations against the four orders including almost 300 claims of physical and emotional abuse against 61 members of the Sisters of Nazareth. But it warned that the figures do not include all allegations because the De La Salle Brothers', Nazareth Sisters' and Norbertines' records "were incomplete".

The review was carried out in 2015-16 but publication was delayed until a separate report by the north's Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry was published in January.

It said in the last year, the De La Salle Brothers and Nazareth Sisters had "engaged more fully" with the NBSCCCI to develop better safeguarding structures and had taken part in training, including how to respond to survivors of abuse.

The report said the third congregation, Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, had recently put forward a member of staff to become a Trainer within the congregation.

In a statement, the De La Salle order again apologised to abuse victims.

It said it had already addressed some of the concerns "and our case file recording system and our historic reporting is a work in process".

"We are committed to continually examining our policies and procedures in the interest of all young people and vulnerable adults," it said.

The Sisters of Nazareth also apologised to "anyone who has suffered abuse" and said it "noted the recommendations made in the report".

"We are heartened that our commitment to engage fully with the NBSCCCI was acknowledged," it said in a statement.

The NBSCCCI encouraged anyone who has suffered clerical abuse to contact Towards Healing on 0800 0963315 (Northern Ireland) or 1800303416 (Republic of Ireland).