Taxpayers’ funding to St John of God mission in Africa is suspended

By: Michael O’Farrell
Investigations Editor

THE provision of Irish taxpayer funds to the St John of God order in Malawi has been suspended in the wake of the coverup of child abuse allegations, exposed by the Irish Mail on Sunday.

The order’s Malawi operations are supported by Misean Cara – a missionary charity that distributes a €16m block grant from the taxpayer-funded Irish Aid each year.

Misean Cara’s accounts show the St John of God order got more than €2.3m in public funds since 2009 – an unknown proportion of which went to Malawi.

In order to receive the funds for Malawi the order – currently led by Brother Donatus Forkan – signed contracts that included statements that child safeguarding policies are being implemented. Failure to make a declaration of compliance would have disqualified St John of God (SJOG) from eligibility for funding.

However, while signing these assurances the order was simultaneously covering up 20 child abuse allegations against Brother Aidan Clohessy, principal of St Augustine’s school for special needs children from 1970 to 1993.

Even as payouts were made to his Irish accusers, Brother Aidan was allowed live and work with vulnerable children in Malawi for nearly 20 years – while SJOG told Irish authorities he had no contact with children.

Misean Cara told the MoS last night it has suspended funding of St John of God’s services in Malawi.

‘In entering into funding and contractual arrangements, SJOG gave an undertaking to Misean Cara that it has in place a safeguarding policy and that this policy is fully implemented in respect of this project. As a result, any funding we have pro-vided to SJOG in respect of this project has now been suspended,’ it said in a statement.

‘We will be carrying out an audit of compliance by St John of God with their contractual undertaking to Misean Cara regarding child safeguarding.’ The charity said it was ‘extremely concerned about the issues raised’ and ‘requested a number of clarifications from St John of God‘.

New allegations 2

Former St Augustine’s pupil Patsy Carville is the latest person to break his silence about life at the school.

The manner in which the order signed the compliance statements about child protection appears to echo the manner in which the order lied to the HSE when declaring compliance with pay rules even as bosses were secretly topping up their wages by millions.

The top up scandal – exposed by the MoS in 2016 – led to a damning HSE audit that recommended repayment of the funds to the Exchequer.

Sarah Blakemore, of Keeping Children Safe, a global child protection alliance, said last night: ‘These shocking allegations underline the responsibility all organisations have to safeguard children. ‘Tragically, abusers often target society’s most vulnerable children… The extreme imbalance of power between adult workers, on the one hand, and the children in their care, on the other, makes it essential that robust systems are in place to ensure the work of these organisations is beyond reproach.’

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Irish abuse survivors group Reclaiming Self called for alleged abusers to be urgently investigated.

Its statement said: ‘Collusion between the State and Church continues to protect the identities of over 1,000 alleged abusers.

‘Those against whom allegations of abuse were made via the [Ryan] Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse and the Redress Board need to be identified and investigated.

‘There is a particular urgency for alleged abusers who are alive to be investigated, in order to assess, if any, the potential risk posed to children.’ SJOG declined to respond last night to our questions about who signed the Misean Cara contracts and why funders of its Malawi mission were not told of concerns and allegations about Brother Aidan.

We also asked Brother Donatus to comment on whether the order’s decisions in Ireland may constitute reckless endangerment of children in Africa – a criminal offence under Irish law. He did not respond.

An SJOG spokesman last night urged anyone with concerns about safeguarding at its Malawi operations to raise them ‘immediately with the order and/or authorities’.

In a statement he said: ‘At this time, we are seeking to establish more detail arising from the recent media reports and ensure all appropriate responses are undertaken. ‘We are endeavouring to see if there are people that need assistance. If identified, we will further endeavour to ensure they have access to the supports they require, should such supports be required.’

michaelofarrell@newsscoops.org

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