11 November 2005

Ahern refuses to answer questions on church-state links


11/11/2005 - 11:32:11

The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has walked out on reporters who questioned him about his defence of the church's relationship with the State.

Yesterday, Mr Ahern defended the church's involvement in the Irish education system and its overall role in Irish society following stinging criticism earlier this week from Progressive Democrats TD Liz O'Donnell.

Ms O'Donnell said the church could not be trusted to tell the truth in the wake of the clerical child sex abuse scandal in Ferns.

She also said the church's involvement in education should be re-examined and its finances should be independently audited.

When Mr Ahern was questioned about the matter before a Fáilte Ireland conference in Dublin today, he walked away from reporters and refused to answer any questions.

His handlers had earlier told the media that he would only speak about tourism.

The Taoiseach's defence of the church has already sparked criticism from a number of areas.

The One in Four support group has described his comments as "ill-timed and poorly judged", saying the good works of the church did not cancel out the rape and abuse of children.

Labour Party TD Liz McManus, meanwhile, said Mr Ahern had displayed an ignorance of the full implications of the Ferns scandal.

"The Ferns Report shows a high level of depravity and cover-up by the institutional church, as well as negligence by the State," she said.

"The Taoiseach's response was grossly defective. It offended the survivors of abuse. It didn't appreciate the importance of reform when it comes to the education of our children."

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