–          the great and intense efforts of many thousands of people across the Irish Church – lay, religious and clergy – over the past 17 years;

–          the existence of an independent and professional National Board for Safeguarding Children to formulate best practice standards and guidance; and,

–          the active implementation of these standards, following that guidance, by Church personnel in every parish and Church organisation across the country.

Bishops recognise the ongoing hard work of the National Board in its three core roles of: developing policies and procedures, advising, monitoring and reviewing.

With regard to its third role, monitoring and reviewing safeguarding practice, progress has been slower than hoped for; we share the Board’s frustration in this regard.  This is due to difficulties in the implementation of civil law in relation to data protection.

Data protection difficulties are real; they were not fabricated or invented to prevent progress.  In fact lawyers acting for the National Board itself, as far back as 2007, alerted the Board to the likelihood that data protection law could pose difficulties in this area.  Three years later, in 2010, the Board engaged with the Data Commissioner to deal with these issues.  In his latest annual report the Data Commissioner refers to his dealings with the National Board on this matter, speaking of a “successful navigation of the complex data protection issues that must be considered when examining the processing of sensitive personal data by a large number of separate, constituent organisations.”   To address the complex data protection issues that exist, bishops ask Government to take the necessary measures so that the National Board can fulfil its full remit in terms of receiving and sharing information with Church bodies, as it was established to do in the first place.

Bishops expressed their support for efforts aimed at achieving greater consistency in safeguarding policies and provisions in both jurisdictions on this island in regard to data protection and information sharing.

The Board’s Annual Report demonstrates significant progress in policy development and training.   The cost of training safeguarding volunteers is now borne directly by individual dioceses and congregations.  Bishops look forward to continuing their work with the Board and resolving remaining issues as quickly and as comprehensively as possible.