Posts Tagged ‘murphy commission’

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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Guest Post: Kieran Walsh on Murphy and Interagency Co-operation

November 30, 2009 3 comments

We are delighted to welcome this guest post on the Murphy Commission Report from Kieran Walsh of UCC and Griffith College Cork. You can learn some more about Kieran on our Guest Contributors page

One of the major issues highlighted in the Murphy Commission’s report is the lack of inter-agency cooperation on child protection issues. Any allegation of abuse requires that a massive infrastructure springs to life to ensure that the complaint is handled appropriately. This is true at the investigative stage as well as the stage of ensuring the rights of the victim to appropriate aftercare. As a result, the various agencies involved – the Gardaí, the HSE and depending on the circumstances, the organisation of which the perpetrator was a member – need to follow clear and unambiguous guidelines outlining the various steps which should be taken. The Murphy Report highlights the lack of coordination within the Catholic Church as well as the lack of coordination, stemming in part from governmental inaction on child protection.

The church issued a set of instructions on the matter of child sex abuse in 1922 entitled Crimen Solicitationis. A new version was issued in 1962. The Report makes clear that these were, as official church documents, written in Latin but there was never an official English translation. Quite apart from the linguistic difficulties, evidence was given by Cardinal Connell that he was not aware of the 1922 document when he became Archbishop, that the 1962 version may never have reached the Archdiocese and that its existence was unknown until the late 1990’s, and that he had never met anyone who had ever even seen it. That the document which was supposed to set out the procedure for dealing with sex abuse complaints was unknown to the Irish church hierarchy is a surprise, that such ignorance helped to engender a culture of indifference is not. It was only in 2001 that the Vatican issued a more widely available set of instructions, Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela.

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The Murphy Commission Report from a Legal Pluralist Perspective

November 26, 2009 2 comments

Having read the Murphy Commission report I wanted to quickly summarise what it shows. The summary is very much coloured by my own research interests, which focus on the relationship between civil and religious law and is not intended to be comprehensive. Some of the main issues raised by the report are:

  • The nature of the interaction between canon and civil law in the governance of priests who had abused children. This is of relevance to the behaviour of individual agents within the church, who knew canon law but ignored relevant principles, and who favoured canon over civil law.  Many of the churchmen involved in the mass coverup of child sex abuse within the church were qualified lawyers.  The operation of canon law in relation to child sex abuse within the diocese is outlined in Chapter 4 of the report.
  • The interaction between churchmen’s loyalty to the state as citizens and fidelity to the church, and the consequences when there is a perceived conflict between them.
  • The effective construction in Ireland of a parallel legal system – with canonical trials and rules of its own about evidence and secrecy and culpability, riven with disputes about interpretation and content  – beyond the reach of civil law, which was capable – through ‘soft’ structures of government and police deference and societal respect, trust and fear  of isolating itself from the criminal justice system. That isolation was actively reinforced every time an abuse took place and those in power responded inappropriately.
  • The manner in which that parallel system was bolstered by undue deference to the church, and the relationship between that ‘soft’ deference and the hard law governing the relationship between church and state in Ireland. Did the church-state relationship and the tendency of successive governments towards the privatisation of church affairs insulate both church and state from responsibility to children?  The report seems to favour a more interventionist state, which has influence over certain aspects of church affairs. It refers to the secular functions performed by the church and the attendant blurring of the boundaries between church and state.
  • The ‘complicity’ of other areas of domestic law in bolstering the harm done under canon law. Criminal law (see Appendix 2 to the Report), the law of evidence in relation to legal privilege, rules of procedure where delay has occurred in processing a prosecution, and child protection law are obvious candidates, but we should think too about how insurance law contributed to the church’s aim of preserving its assets.
  • The effect of parallel legal systems on minority members of religious groups, such as children and the role of the civil legal system in providing an effective and empowering space within which victims of resultant harm can disrupt prevailing power relations within a religious group. One victim is mentioned as saying of the Archdiocesan officials: “you deal with me when I’m a threat to you legally but when I’m not a threat to you, you ignore me”.

What the Murphy Commission Report tells us is that impunity is produced by interaction between civil law and minority laws – in the work of individual legal subjects and in the actions of the state.

We have some in-house contributors who can post on a number of these issues, and you can expect commentary in due course. However, if any reader -in Ireland or elsewhere – has expertise enough to contribute a guest post on these or related topics you are most welcome to email maireadenright[at] within the next 10 days or so with your proposal.