, DUBLIN, May 24 – Ireland was examining on Tuesday if it can charge Catholic clergy with child sex abuse committed abroad following allegations of rape and abuse by Irish missionaries in a number of African countries.
A TV documentary by Irish broadcaster RTE highlighted allegations of abuse by priests and religious brothers in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, with accounts from victims, many speaking for the first time about their ordeals.
Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter said he had watched the programme aired on Monday "with a sense of revulsion at the unspeakable catalogue of abuse against children it revealed".
"While the behaviour took place abroad, we have a solemn duty to do all that is within our power to ensure that perpetrators of this predatory abuse of children are brought to justice wherever it takes place.
"There can be no hiding place for those who do these despicable acts to children," Shatter said.
Ireland\’s top policeman, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, has ordered the head of the force\’s domestic violence and sexual assault unit to examine whether criminal behaviour was disclosed "which can be pursued in this jurisdiction".
Shatter said a 1996 law allows people to be tried in Ireland under certain circumstances for sexual offences against a child which are committed abroad.
The country\’s Health Service Executive has also been asked to examine possible child protection issues because some of the clergy named in the programme now live in Ireland.
The One in Four group that deals with abuse victims said it had been "inundated with calls" after the documentary was shown.
Executive director Maeve Lewis said the programme was "sickeningly recognisable".
It "told the same story that we are so familiar with in Ireland: vulnerable children being targeted and abused by priests and brothers while the Catholic authorities deny the abuse and protect the sex offenders.
"Missionaries and aid workers occupy powerful positions in the developing world by virtue of their control over the distribution of resources.
"Any abuse of that position is deeply wrong, but using it to groom desperately poor children is utterly evil," Lewis said.
Ireland, a predominantly Catholic country, has been rocked by a series of child sex abuse scandals involving clerics.
In 2009 a ground-breaking judicial investigation found that abuse had been "endemic" for decades in state-funded Catholic-run childcare institutions.
A second judicial report found that prelates in the Dublin archdiocese – the country\’s biggest – covered up abuse by priests for decades to protect the reputation and assets of the church.
The government is considering legal advice before the publication of a further report following a probe into allegations of abuse in the diocese of Cloyne in southern Ireland.
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