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Murphy Commission Report and the Criminal Law

December 8, 2009 2 comments

This year’s publication of the Ryan Commission (Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse) report and Murphy Commission (Commission of Investigation into Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin) report (pictured left, in the hand of Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin), detailing the involvement in, and concealment of, abuse of children by religious orders in Ireland will likely have a profound impact upon child protection laws in the Republic of Ireland.

Moreover, the passing last month of a motion in the Northern Ireland Assembly calling upon the Executive to ‘commission an assessment of the extent of abuse and neglect in Northern Ireland’ and to liaise with authorities in the Republic to ‘ensure that all-Ireland protections for children and vulnerable adults’ suggests that the impact of these reports will extend into Northern Ireland.

Whilst Mairead Enright and Kieran Walsh have already posted their thoughts on the impact of the Murphy Commission report here and here, this post will consider Mary Raferty’s opinion piece in the Irish Times on 27 November, which drew comparison between the methods adopted to gain an accurate picture of the widespread nature of abuse and tackling organised crime.

The Ryan report was compelled to provide anonymity to some figures that it considered to be involved in the abuse and cover-up (the Christian Brothers case – Murray & Anor v. Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse & Ors [2004] IEHC 102) and has as yet resulted in no prosecutions. Indeed, whilst the matter was being debated in the Northern Ireland Assembly, Michelle McIlveen (DUP, Strangford) sponsored an amendment motion rejecting calls to establish a public inquiry on the Ryan Commission model. She explained that:

“I tabled the amendment because I remain seriously concerned that to follow the road of the Ryan inquiry would deny victims the kind of acknowledgement and justice that they most need. The lack of a focus on criminal prosecutions and the agreement to immunity from prosecution for those guilty of such abuse is the most fundamental flaw in the inquiry and not one that serves any of the victims. The Assembly should not move forward in a manner that denies natural justice and gives protection to those guilty of such crimes.”

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