GARDAI have been made aware of an allegation of child sexual abuse made against a priest of the Limerick diocese.
The allegation is one of sexual impropriety involving a minor and dates back to the 1990s when the priest was serving in a parish in the city.
Mass-goers in the priest’s County Limerick parish were told at the weekend that the cleric had voluntarily stepped aside from ministry on being made aware of the complaint last week. A canonical investigation into the matter has now been set in motion.
A source familiar with the priest involved described the allegation as being “at the lower end of the spectrum” and said the priest would “strenuously deny” any wrongdoing.
The diocese’s own child protection policy requires it to share information on allegations with An Garda Siochana and the HSE and it is understood this had been adhered to in this case.
While gardai have been made aware of the allegation, it was not clear at the time of going to press whether they have received a formal complaint from the alleged injured party. Supt Frank O’Brien, Henry Street garda station, said it was the force’s policy not to comment on individual cases.
A spokesman said the diocese could “confirm that a priest of the diocese, in accordance with the recommendations of church policy on safeguarding children, has asked to step aside from ministry while an alleged historical child protection matter is being dealt with”.
In keeping with the safeguarding policy, which places children’s well-being at the heart of church activities, the Diocese has agreed to the request from the priest in question,” the spokesman added.
Government guidelines require those working with children to automatically refer any allegations of child sexual abuse to An Garda Siochana.
Supt O’Brien said that while he could not comment on any particular case, the situation generally was that gardai took steps to ensure children were kept safe whether an allegation was current or historic in nature.
“There is a tremendous understanding of the need to ensure that steps are taken to protect children where there is any issue or concern about their protection,” said Supt O’Brien.
“When we receive a complaint or a report relative to any allegation, we take steps to establish whether the person affected, the complainant or injured party, wishes to pursue it and it is a matter of personal choice for them as to what action needs to be taken.”
Gardai had to “respect the wishes” of any individual while ensuring there was no child protection risk in the community at large.