There was a "significant increase" in the number of notifications of allegations of abuse reported to the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI) in the past 12 months.

In its latest annual report, the NBSCCCI said it is clear from the source of the allegations that many
of these relate to alleged abuse in boarding schools run and managed by male and female religious orders.

It is believed that the RTÉ documentary Blackrock Boys, which has resulted in a preliminary inquiry by the Government into the issue of sexual abuse in schools run by religious orders, has contributed to the rise in allegations.

The board received 251 notifications of child protection concerns about clergy and male and female religious between 1 April 2022 and 31 March 2023.

That compares to 178 allegations of abuse against clerics and religious the previous year.

There was an increase in the number of requests for safeguarding advice from 258 to 282.

The majority of allegations received (200) state sexual abuse as the major abuse.

There were a further 37 allegations of physical abuse, one boundary violation, and 13 cases of alleged abuse for which the type was not provided.

In some cases notified, particularly in relation to sexual abuse, emotional abuse is also noted on the referral form.

The report notes that following changes to civil and canon law, the board began reviewing the current church policy relating to safeguarding children in January 2022.

In light of over ten years' experience, the board decided that operational practice should be reflected in a revised policy and it developed a consultation process.

"The goal of this consultation was to hear the views of children and their carers, complainants of and respondents to allegations of abuse, and statutory partners and external experts in child safeguarding, as well as church personnel who have responsibilities for safeguarding. The process concluded in February
2023," it said.

Methodist Church apology

Separately, the Methodist Church in Ireland (MCI) has apologised after a safeguarding review found 30 historic cases of abuse within the denomination.

The review, which was established in 2020, sought to identify and consider sample past cases since 1950 that had safeguarding concerns.

The majority of the 30 cases date from 1998 onwards.

While the Methodist Church acknowledged it was a relatively small number and not on the scale recorded in a number of other denominations or institutions, "even allowing for the size of Methodism, there is no comfort taken in this small number of cases".

The MCI invited the four educational institutions of which it is the patron body and where there are boards of governors acting on behalf of the church to undertake their own reviews.

These are Wesley College Dublin, Methodist College Belfast, Gurteen College Tipperary and Rathgar National School Dublin.

The report said no issues had emerged during the review process that raise any concerns and each institution had appropriate and robust safeguarding processes in place.

"However, as part of our focus on ensuring that all aspects of the life of the MCI, including our educational institutions, are as safe as can be, and to ensure we learn as much as is possible from the past, we recommend this review process in these institutions," it said.

The incoming Methodist President, Rev David Turtle, described the report as "a time to say sorry", and "an opportunity to ensure that our policies continue to be robust and to renew our resolve to protect all and to be a place of safety for all. Our resolve is that what we have learnt will further enable us to be a place of healing and hope for everyone".