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ACP critical of appointment of Judge Murphy

By Sarah Mac Donald - 19 July, 2014

Fr Sean McDonagh. Photo: Columbans.co.uk

Fr Sean McDonagh. Photo: Columbans.co.uk

The Association of Catholic Priests has criticised the appointment of Judge Yvonne Murphy to oversee the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

In a statement issued on Friday, the ACP said that while it welcomes the establishment of the Commission of Investigation, it is important that it be carried out competently, justly and in strict accordance with guidelines to be laid down by the Government.

The Association said this should reflect natural and constitutional justice.

On the appointment of Judge Yvonne Murphy, who chaired the Murphy Commission into abuse in Dublin diocese, Fr Sean McDonagh told CatholicIreland.net that his association’s criticism of Judge Murphy was “not personal” and should not be interpreted as an attack on Judge Murphy, “still less an attempt to obstruct the investigation.”

He said the ACP wanted to flag their concerns over the procedural fairness of the Dublin diocese report, and the findings of barrister Fergal Sweeney in his review of the Murphy Report.

He concluded that the Murphy Report contained significant deficiencies in terms of respecting the demands of natural and constitutional justice.

Fr McDonagh referred to 4.14 of the Sweeney Review which stated that: “However, from the legal perspective it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that insofar as the Catholic clerics who were called to testify were concerned, the practices and procedures of the Murphy Commission fell far short of meeting the concerns of the Law Reform Commission and, more importantly, of natural and constitutional  justice.”

In the light of these findings concerning the Murphy Commission, the ACP has suggested that Fergal Sweeney’s conclusions should be considered before the terms of reference for the investigation into Mother and Baby homes are established.

The ACP said Fergal Sweeney’s study had been “largely ignored in the media and by the legal profession,” but warned that the review’s recommendations were “vital for the credibility” of the new inquiry.

The group said it was also vital that those entrusted with investigating the Mother and Baby homes should accept and implement the guidelines laid down by the government.

“This is a matter not just of natural justice but of judicial competence,” the ACP said.

The association also said it hoped the Commission would avail of the expertise of social scientists, especially anthropologists, “to make sure that the cultural prism through which we interpret present reality is not imposed on the past.”

“Here too competent historians must be consulted so that the Commission has an accurate understanding of the historical reality at that period in Irish history and of the various actors who were involved in the wider context of the Mother and Child homes at the time.”

The ACP concluded, “Making the same mistakes twice, when people’s characters and reputations are at stake, would be unconscionable.”

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