The Irish Times – Thursday, September 8, 2011
STEPHEN COLLINS, Political Editor, in Galway
THE LEGISLATION covering mandatory reporting of child abuse will not contain any reference to Confession, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has said.
The Minister described the controversy over Confession as “an entirely bogus issue” and said he did not anticipate any reference to it in the Bill.
Mr Shatter was speaking to reporters during the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting in Galway yesterday.
The issue of Confession arose in July after Mr Shatter published the heads of a Bill making it a criminal offence to withhold information relating to sexual abuse or other serious offences against a child or vulnerable adult.
Questioned by journalists at the time, Mr Shatter and Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said there would be no exceptions to the rule, including information given to priests in Confession.
Asked yesterday if there would be a reference to the confessional in the full Bill, Mr Shatter said: “This is an entirely bogus issue. The focus of the Bill, the heads of which were published at the end of July, is to ensure that where there are what we describe as arrestable crimes, which include child sexual abuse committed against a child, and where an individual has material information that would assist the gardaí in the investigation of that crime, that they provide it to the gardaí, unless there is a reasonable excuse not to do so.”
He added that the context of the legislation is to ensure that those who know children are being abused inform the Garda; that those who are the abusers are brought to justice; and that other children are protected.
“The central focus of this Government and my colleague Frances Fitzgerald and myself is child welfare and child protection,” he said.
“And this [Confession] is an entire divergence from the central focus of what we’re seeking to address, and I think it would be helpful if those who are focusing on that issue focused to a far greater extent on the protection of children.”
Asked about the referendum on children’s rights, Ms Fitzgerald said the wording was currently with the Attorney General and she expected to see substantial progress in the next few weeks.
“We will then be looking at the wording and the Cabinet will decide on a date. At the moment we don’t have a date, but it remains a high priority for the Government once we have a wording agreed.”
The Minister said there had been some difficulties with the wordings which had been in the public arena and the Government wanted to get it right. “There have been some difficulties with those. But we are committed to wording along the lines originally proposed by the all-party constitutional committee on children,” she said.
- Child protection measures apply regardless of religious rules (alisonsgypt.wordpress.com)
- Dublin: Minister Responds To Cardinal Brady’s Challenge To State’s Governing Authority Over Children’s Safety (lostchildreninthewilderness.wordpress.com)
- Government stands over criticism of Vatican on child abuse [Related to Montague Keen 9/4/2011] (jhaines6.wordpress.com)