Bishop of Limerick wants no let up in safeguarding vulnerable people

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Bishop Brendan Leahy
Bishop Brendan Leahy addressing the conference at Mary Immaculate College. Photo: Keith Wiseman

Failure to recognise and respond appropriately to the complex issues of abuse compounds the profound harm done to the lives of young and vulnerable persons, Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy has said.

Speaking at a child safeguarding conference in Mary Immaculate College yesterday, Bishop Leahy said that ‘safeguarding’ is not just about children but people of all ages and abilities who are vulnerable to predators.

The ‘Building Collaboration in Safeguarding’ conference was organised by the Diocese of Limerick in association with An Garda Síochána, Tusla and the HSE.  Attendees included those from statutory, voluntary and educational sectors, as well as various faith organisations.

In his address to the delegates, Bishop Leahy said, “People of my generation began our adult lives with almost no awareness of the pervasiveness and impact of abuse in our society and in all societies.  As a consequence, failure to recognise and respond appropriately to the complex issues which abuse presents, has at times compounded the profound and harmful impact on the lives of many young and vulnerable persons.

“At one point in trying to tackle the issues, we began speaking about child protection. Today we speak instead of Safeguarding because Safeguarding is a concept that reaches beyond protection, responding not only to problems which have occurred but incorporates the prevention of harm and the promotion of welfare.  Safeguarding also extends beyond children to include people of all ages and abilities who may have vulnerabilities which exposes them to a risk of abuse.”

“We are, in Limerick Diocese, in a stronger place than we were. We have a range of services in place and very active training programmes. The greatest danger for us is that we might relax and believe that the worst is in some way behind us.  To take this view would be a profound error which would compound the historical failures.

“Sometimes however, it seems as if all of us, all of society, can want to simplify this issue and move on.  To stay with an awareness of the pervasiveness of abuse and those dark parts of our human nature and the tendency to exploit weakness and vulnerability, may be almost too much.”

Bishop Leahy said that from his own meetings with victims, he was critically aware of the impact of abuse on them and their families.

“This can impact on all dimensions of their lives and there are no quick or simple solutions to what are sometimes their lifelong struggles.  I am also very conscious of the strain on people working in voluntary organisations as they struggle with what at times seem to be enormous limitations on resources.

“I am aware of the professionalism and commitment of people in the statutory sector who are the first to acknowledge the difficulties which they struggle with every day.  I believe the presentations from each of the key Statutory Agencies which form the core of this conference will serve to illustrate their commitment to developing new and innovative practices and will provide all of us in the other sectors an opportunity to reflect on our collective challenges as a community.

Addressed by senior representatives of organisations with an involvement in safeguarding in the Limerick area, including Chief Superintendent David Sheahan, who spoke about the level of interagency collaboration that is taking place, quoting extracts from the NBSCCCI audit of Limerick Diocese that acknowledged the unique engagement between Limerick Diocese, an Garda Siochana and HSE/ TUSLA.

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