John of God brother lied on €1m funding

By: Michael O’Farrell

Investigations Editor

A ST John of God Brother accused of multiple counts of child sex abuse lied to secure more than €1m in funds from a prominent German charity, the Irish Mail on Sunday can reveal.

Last month the MoS revealed that the order covered up 20 abuse allegations against Brother Aidan Clohessy, allowing him to house vulnerable children in his Malawi home for decades – as payouts were made to his Irish accusers.

Since then several new Irish accusers have come forward to allege abuse dating back to Brother Aidan’s time as the principal of St Augustine’s school for special needs children in Blackrock, Dublin, between 1970 and 1993.

These cases are now the focus of a new Garda investigation.

Now we can reveal that Brother Aidan signed contracts and declarations with German child rights organisation Kindernothilfe (KNH) in which he incorrectly stated he had never been accused of any physical or sexual abuse against children.

KNH is one of Germany’s most prominent NGOs with an annual budget of €56m provided by more than 300,000 citizen donors, the EU and Germany’s government.

Since 2007, when Brother Aidan first signed a contract with KNH, it has provided over €1.3m to support SJOG’s child-focused programmes in Malawi.

contracts 2

The wording of the contract and declaration of commitment that Brother Aidan Clohessy signed with German NGO Kindernothilfe (KNH).

This week KNH suspended funding of SJOG Malawi saying it needs to ‘regain confidence’ ‘that its child protection standards are in place’. It comes a week after Irish taxpayer funds to SJOG Malawi – provided via the Misean Cara charity – were cancelled. Misean Cara has launched a compliance audit to examine whether SJOG complied with its child protection rules.

KNH only learned of the revelations about Brother Aidan when contacted by the MoS, it had not been notified by SJOG. Now it is preparing a fact-finding mission by local experts trained in assessing and dealing with child abuse.

In interviews conducted by the MoS in Malawi young men who stayed at Brother Aidan’s home spoke of how he collected them from the street to shower them.

Some made allegations of beating and inappropriate contact which allegedly took place as SJOG told Irish authorities Brother Aidan had no contact with children.

KNH’s child protection officer Joerg Lichtenberg said last night their most immediate concern is to ‘ensure there are no children at risk of abuse at the moment’.

‘We are very shocked and take this case and the allegations very seriously,’ he said. ‘Child protection standards are an essential principle for us and they have been part of our contracts with all partner organisations for many years.

‘Furthermore, they are reflected in our child protection policy and our worldwide child protection capacity-building programme for our partners.’ KNH confirmed that from 2007 Brother Aidan signed contracts including stipulations about compliance with child protection rules. Throughout this period allegations against Brother Aidan, from his time at St Augustine’s, mounted in Ireland. But these were covered up and no one in Africa appears to have known of any concerns about his contact with children.

The manner in which Brother Aidan secured more than €1m by way of a signed false declaration raises serious questions for him and could be considered fraudulent – though the money appears to have been used for charitable purposes.

The MoS asked the order in Dublin, which oversees the Malawi operation, what the current Provincial, Brother Donatus Forkan – also a board member of SJOG Malawi – and recently departed CEO, John Pepper, along with other members of the order’s child safeguarding committee, knew of Brother Aidan’s actions.

An SJOG spokesman said: ‘It would not be appropriate for the order to respond’ to the queries.

Groups representing survivors of clerical abuse have called for an investigation into the possibility that the SJOG order may have committed an offence of reckless endangerment of children.

A Garda spokesman said he could not comment on whether this would be part of the Garda investigation.

Read The Full Investigation.

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