Government to consider public inquiry into Spiritan abuse

The Irish government is considering a public inquiry into historical abuse allegations by Spiritan priests.

It comes as the Spiritans of Ireland gave a public apology to victims on Wednesday, and announced that an independent group would engage with survivors of abuse at schools and institutions decades ago.

John Coulter, a representative of a group of past pupils of Blackrock College – a Spiritan school, has called for an inquiry to be carried out into the abuse.

“The cry out for an investigation should be driven by the people,” said Mr Coulter who has taken part in restorative justice programme.

“We know from from our own interaction with people that victims and survivors would like an investigation.

“The nature of that it needs to be left to the experts.”

Speaking in the Dail, Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the government would give consideration as to whether a public inquiry would be “the most effective way to have a victim-led approach to what went on”.

He said there was a need to “learn lessons” from previous public inquiries into clerical abuse in Ireland, which took longer than people had expected.

“The level, the scale and nature of sexual abuse carried out in Blackrock, and indeed in other school settings, is absolutely sickening and shocking.”

“Our sympathies go out, and thoughts, to all the victims and survivors of such terrible abuse because such sexual abuse causes immense trauma for the entire life of those who have been abused. It destroys many aspects of their lives.

“It’s a stain on our society that so much abuse occurred in settings where people were entitled to feel safe and where people should have been protected and nurtured.”

Spiritan religious order abuse
Provincial of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit Fr Martin Kelly at a joint news briefing with the Spiritans in Ireland and Blackrock past pupils (Brian Lawless/PA)

Speaking at a government press event, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said “for me, what’s most important is that we listen to the victims, that we listen to those who have come forward.”

“That there is justice at the end of the day for some of those who have come forward.

“Justice means the criminal justice system making sure that those who are responsible are held responsible, irrespective of what age they are or how long ago it happened.

“I think we need to get a full picture here, we need to know how many or who we are talking about.

“We listen to the voices of those who are speaking to us and at the end of the day these are appalling acts we are talking about, so we need to ensure that there is justice and whatever form that comes in.”

A debate on the issue is due to be held in the Irish parliament’s lower house, Dail Eireann, next week.