28/10/2005

Catholic Church reveals extent of abuse allegations

The Catholic Church was reeling today following further confirmation of sexual abuse amongst its priests in a number of diocese's north and south of the border.

In the latest revelations, it emerged that 15 priests have been accused of sexually abusing children over the past 50 years in the Down and Connor diocese while a further 26 have been accused of abuse in the Derry diocese over the same period.

The figures followed an Irish government inquiry into child abuse in the Ferns diocese in Co Wexford uncovered over 100 allegations of sexual abuse by priests.

The 271-page Ferns report investigated allegations against 21 priests who had been working in the diocese between 1966-2002.

In the Down and Connor diocese Bishop Patrick Walsh appealed for anyone "who feels they have been hurt, we want to help them".

"We have put in place very, very strict policies and procedures in regard to child protection and there will be training for everyone in every parish in the diocese," he said.

In Derry Dr Seamus Hegarty said there had been only one successful prosecution against the 21 allegations of abuse.

"Our paramount concern is for the safety and welfare of children," he said.

"An independent child care consultant has recently carried out a review of all cases in this diocese, and the diocese will have ongoing external review."

(MB/SP)

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