The Safeguarding Office

Diocese of Down and Connor

The Safeguarding Office was formally established in 2008 to co-ordinate and build upon the existing good work of safeguarding that had already taken place throughout the Diocese. The office now has 7 professional staff and three administrative support staff.

Barbara McDermott: Director for Safeguarding (also Designated Officer for Down and Connor)

Barbara is the Director for Safeguarding for the Diocese, acting in a line management capacity for the professional staff as well as undertaking the duties of deputy Diocesan Designated Officer, whose role is to receive and manage all allegations of abuse. Barbara has over 30 years’ experience in the field of Child Protection and training.

In the Diocese, her role is to develop and oversee the implementation of safeguarding practices for the Diocese and to liaise with the Statutory Agencies in relation to the management of cases and the development of Best Practice, for both child protection and adult safeguarding. Barbara is currently the interim chair of The Safeguarding Board for N.I newly established interfaith subgroup.

Andy Thomson: Vetting and Baring Co-Coordinator for the Northern Dioceses (also provides advice in a consultative capacity to Down and Connor)

Andy is a retired senior Civil Service Officer with experience in the field of managing and sharing information and risk assessment. He was a founding member of the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults vetting system for Northern Ireland and subsequently General Manager of the National vetting Agency, Access NI. Given his skills and background, his role is to manage the vetting and barring arrangements for the six Norther Dioceses and in this area he is accountable to the Northern Bishops. He works closely with the Diocesan Representatives from the other five Northern Dioceses. Andy acts as an Adviser for the Diocese and a liaison with statutory agencies.

Susan Gordon: Training and Parish Development Officer

Susan Gordon

Susan is a qualified Social Worker with over 20 years’ experience in the field. She has worked in Family and Child Care Services both in the Statutory and Voluntary Sector. Susan is also a qualified mediator.

Susan is employed part-time and is taking lead responsibility for developing some new awareness-raising training in the areas of Domestic Violence and Abuse. Along with Fr Michael McGinnity, the Chair of our Diocesan Safeguarding Committee, Susan will be developing the Diocese Pastoral Outreach project to victims.

Philip O’Hara: Designated Liaison Officer/Policy Coordinator

Philip O'Hara

On the 11th April 2016, Philip O’Hara joined the staff at the Safeguarding Office, as a new, full time team member for a two year period. As part of his duties, Philip will undertake the role of Designated Liaison Person for Child Protection and the “Champion Role” for Adult Safeguarding, both of which are currently carried out by Andy Thomson. This arrangement has been put in place to facilitate Andy to concentrate predominately on Vetting for the Northern Dioceses.

Philip, whom we are also delighted to have as a team member, is a professionally qualified social worker with 30 years experience. Philip has worked across a number of social work specialities, including child protection, children and disabilities, residential work and as an Inspector with RQIA (The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority).

Given his previous experience as a PSC (Parish Safeguarding Committee) chair, Philip will also work alongside Susan Gordon in the Safeguarding Office, assisting her in the role of supporting Parish Safeguarding Committees.


Lorna Baker: Safeguarding Secretary

Lorna provides secretarial support to the Safeguarding team. Her career to date has been varied, but she has mainly worked in the areas of training and education where she has worked with vulnerable children and young people, and in various senior administrative roles in the media, leisure and communications industries.

Lorraine Moreland: Vetting Officer

Lorraine joined the Diocese of Down and Connor as a Vetting Officer in March 2015.  Her career began working for an Enterprise Agency as a Property and Finance Manager, giving advice and assistance to individuals who wanted to start-up and run a small business.  She continued her career working for small to medium sized private consultancy companies as a senior Administrator and Finance Manager.


Safeguarding Support Officers

The Safeguarding Office has three Safeguarding Support Officers (SSOs) who are employed as part-time trainers. The SSOs chair the Pastoral Community Safeguarding Support Meetings previously known as Joint Vicariate Meetings, deliver training to Parish Safeguarding Committees and co-ordinate safeguarding training for volunteers.

Madeline Bell

Maddie is a social worker who has worked for Barnardo’s for 25 years as a children’s domestic violence safeguarding consultant. She is the chair of the safeguarding committee of Ardkeen parish in Kircubbin and the designated safeguarding officer for Ballycran GAC and Kirkistown Town Golf Club.

Maddie is the Safeguarding support officer for the pastoral communities of Ballymena North Connor Larne and Glengormley and is also one of our Diocesan Vicariate Support Facilitators providing safeguarding to parish volunteers

Mary Wylie

Mary Wylie

Mary is a retired Vice Principal (Pastoral) of a secondary school. Since 2001, she has been chair of the Downpatrick Vicariate Support Team. She is also a Vicariate Support Facilitator providing safeguarding training for volunteers in the Downpatrick Vicariate. Mary covers the Vicariates of South Down, Downpatrick, Portaferry and Lisburn.

Patsy Curry

Patsy Curry

Patsy has recently retired from social work where he worked in Community Mental Health and Training and Development. He is an Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Trainer (ASIST) and Mental Health First Aid Trainer (MHFA). Patsy is a Vicariate Support Facilitator in the South Down Region. Patsy covers the Vicariates of Upper Falls, Lower Falls, Holy Family and Holy Rosary.


Diocesan Safeguarding Committee

Fr Michael McGinnity – Chair

Mrs Catriona Rooney – Social Worker

Rev Eugene O’Hagan – Chancellor

In attendance: Barbara McDermott (Director for Safeguarding), Andy Thomson (Vetting and Barring Co-ordinator), Susan Gordon (Training and Development Officer)

Role and Function of the Safeguarding Committee

The Diocesan Safeguarding Committee meets regularly to review and support the work of the Safeguarding Office and is accountable to the Bishop.

The Diocesan Safeguarding Committee aims to

  • Assist in the development of the Diocesan safeguarding Strategy and its implementation
  • Oversee the safeguarding practices in the Diocese regarding training, safe recruitment and the development of resources to guide and support best practice across the Diocese.

The Safeguarding Committee is not involved in the management of individual cases of actual or suspected abuse. This role is delegated to the Diocesan Advisory Panel.


Diocesan Advisory Panel

Aidan Canavan – Chair

Dr Daniel Brennan – Consultant Psychiatrist

Rev Eugene O’Hagan – Chancellor

Dr Paul Quinn – General Practitioner

Mr Philip O’Hara – Social Worker

Mrs Clare Joudeh – Family and Child Care Senior Social Worker

Rev Joseph Rooney – Canon Lawyer (Co-opted)

Fintan Canavan – Solicitor

Joe Doherty – Senior Probation Officer (retired)

Role and Function of the Advisory Panel

The Diocese has a strong team of professionals who meet as required, to provide expertise and advice to the Bishop by way of recommendations regarding the management of allegations. To promote safeguarding by:

  • Advising the Church authority on all stages of the investigative process into alleged child abuse
  • Keeping a record of all of its recommendations to the Church authority
  • Upholding the seven standards in practice and behaviour


Diocesan Support Person

In line with the Standards & Guidance Document of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI), the Diocese provides an additional service to those individuals who make allegations of child abuse by offering access to a Support Person. The role of the Support Person is to assist and advise the individual of the process as an enquiry progresses. The Support Person also may assist the individual to make contact with their GP (if they are agreeable) and to access appropriate community services. Currently the Diocese has two support Persons.

Sonia Hand

Sonia is a retired approved Mental Health Social Worker with approximately 25 years’ experience, she is also a qualified counsellor. Sonia has undertaken specific training in working with Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse.