By Noel Dundon
The Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, Most Rev Dermot Clifford has this week told The Tipperary Star that he has been buoyed by the messages of support coming from the general public in the wake of the publication of the report into clerical child sex abuse in the diocese of Cloyne.
As Apostolic Administrator of the Cloyne diocese following the departure of Bishop John Magee in 2009, Archbishop Clifford was forced to deal with the extremely tough issues reported by Judge Yvonne Murphy in the Commission of Inquiry which was published last week.
And, having apologised “to the many who suffered horrendous acts of abuse perpetrated by some priests” Archbishop Clifford was lauded for his forthright, direct and sincere demeanour when he faced national and international media in Cobh.
“It has been a tough time and the whole uncertainty about when it would be published, has been a strain. I had received a copy of the report well in advance of the media and I was able to prepare for the conference. However, it is a different story when you are faced with so many cameras flashing and questions coming from all quarters. It was very hectic and I just tried to be as direct as I could be,” said Archbishop Clifford as he holidayed in his native Kerry this week.
While dividing his time between Cashel and Emly, and Cloyne has been a challenge, Archbishop Clifford, who is also Patron of the GAA, pointed out that the good road network between Thurles and Cobh has been a major help to him.
“That makes a big difference alright and while there has been a lot of tension over the last few months, I would say that it has been nervous tension rather than physically tiring. I have been running on nervous energy really and I suppose when the call came, I could have opted out of the responsibility by pleading on the grounds of age. But, the people of Cloyne are our neighbours and they needed help at the time. There are very fine priests in the diocese and they needed help as well as the people from all the parishes in the diocese,” Archbishop Clifford said.
Confirming that vetting of priests is well underway in the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly, Dr Clifford was lavish in his praise for the work undertaken by the Garda Vetting Office in Thurles and said that a recent visit to the centre reminded him of his days supervising study in St Brendan’s in Killarney with the staff working away quietly at their desks.
“Yes this process is well underway in Cashel and Emly and I suppose I have been disappointed that more media emphasis has not be placed on the level of measures undertaken by us over the last few years in terms of safeguarding children. Every parish now has at least one child protection representative and they are doing great work. It is of paramount importance that our children are protected and the safeguarding reforms we have made will be a big help. Many of those reforms had been in place prior to my appointment in Cloyne - it’s important to point that out,” he said.
Archbishop Clifford will continue to carry out his work in Cloyne in tandem with Cashel and Emly until a new Bishop is appointed, probably in early 2012.