About Us

The Safeguarding Office

Diocese of Down and Connor
The Safeguarding Office was formally established in 2008 to coordinate and build upon the existing good work of safeguarding that had already taken place throughout the diocese. The office now has seven professional staff and three administrative support staff.

Barbara McDermott: Director for Safeguarding (also Deputy 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 sub group.

Andy Thomson: Vetting and Barring 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. Given his skills and background, his role is to manage the vetting and barring arrangements for the six Northern 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 is a qualified social worker with over 20 years’ experience in the field. She has worked in Family and Child Care Services in both 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 Perdon/Policy Coordinator
On 11 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.

Fr Peter Owens: Episcopal Vicar for Safeguarding
Fr Peter was ordained a priest of Down and Connor in 1990. After two years of postgraduate studies in Rome, he returned to the diocese and has served in the parishes of St Paul’s, Larne and St Agnes’, and is presently Parish Priest of Carrickfergus and Whitehead. In June 2009, he graduated from the University of Ulster with a Diploma of Higher Education in counselling, and after working with the Safeguarding Office for several years, was appointed by Bishop Treanor in August 2013 as Episcopal Vicar for Safeguarding. In this role, he represents the Bishop in the area of safeguarding and is a member of the diocesan safeguarding staff, with particular responsibility for liaising with priests in all fields of child protection and safeguarding. He sits on the Diocesan Safeguarding Committee and the Advisory Panel.


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 executive assistant and administrative roles in the television/media, leisure and communications industries.

Lorraine Moreland: Vetting Officer
Lorraine joined the Diocese of Down and Connor as a Vetting Officer in March 2015. She began her career 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 coordinate safeguarding training for volunteers.

Maddie 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 Castle Golf Club.

Maddie is the Safeguarding Support Officer for the pastoral communities of Antrim, Ballymena, North Connor and Loughshore, and is also one of our Diocesan Vicariate Support Facilitators providing safeguarding to parish volunteers. She is also a member of the Diocesan Safeguarding Committee.

Mary Wylie
Mary is a retired Vice Principal (Pastoral) of a secondary school. She is Safeguarding Support Officer for South Down Pastoral Community, Downpatrick Pastoral Community, Portaferry, and Lisburn Pastoral Community.

Patsy Curry
Patsy has recently retired from social work, where he worked in Community Mental Health and Training and Development. He is Safeguarding Support Officer for the West Belfast Pastoral Community and the Falls Road Pastoral Community.

Amanda Stewart – Chief Executive of the NI Policing Board
Caroline Brogan – Social Worker and Statutory Trainer
Catriona Rooney – Social Worker
Fr Peter Owens – Episcopal Vicar for Safeguarding and Parish Priest
Gerry Marshall – Lecturer in Social Work at Queen’s University Belfast
Maddie Bell – Social Worker/Domestic Violence Training Consultant
Philip O’Hara – Social Worker/Designated Liaison Person
Susan Gordon – Social Worker/Training and Parish Development Officer
Very Rev Eugene O’Hagan – Chancellor of the Diocese
Barbara McDermott – Social Worker/Director for Safeguarding
Very Rev Michael McGinnity – Chair/Parish Priest

Role and Function of the Safeguarding Committee

The Diocesan Safeguarding Committee is established by the Bishop, comprising members of the laity and clergy with relevant backgrounds and knowledge and experience of safeguarding of children. The committee is responsible for:
1. Developing a comprehensive three-year Safeguarding Strategic Plan and communicating and overseeing its implementation;
2. Ensuring local safeguarding policy and procedures are in place and are adhered to;
3. Ensuring Parish Safeguarding Committees are established, and coordinating and supporting their local responsibilities;
4. Developing a training needs analysis and training programme for all clergy, paid staff and volunteers within the Diocese;
5. Ensuring the completion of the annual parish safeguarding audit;
6. Ensuring the maintenance of appropriate records in respect of all safeguarding activity including records on recruitment, vetting and training;
7. Ensuring with the Bishop that the appropriate child safeguarding personnel are in place.

Aidan Canavan – Chair/former President of the Law Society NI/ Magistrate (Retired)
Barbara McDermott – Director of Safeguarding
Clare Joudeh – Family and Child Care Senior Social Worker
Dr Paul Quinn – Consultant Clinical Psychologist (Retired)
Dr Daniel Brennan – Consultant Psychiatrist (Retired)
Very Rev Eugene O’Hagan – Chancellor
Fr Joseph Rooney – Canon Lawyer (Co-opted)
Fr Peter Owens – Episcopal Vicar for Safeguarding
Philip O’Hara – Social Worker/Designated Liaison Person
Terry Doherty – Senior Probation Officer NI(Retired)
Fintan Canavan – Solicitor

Role and Function of the Advisory Panel

The Panel advises the Bishop at all stages of the investigative process into specific cases where allegations of abuse, current or historical, have been made and the associated risk management process. The Panel is responsible for maintaining records of all its recommendations to the Bishop and providing advice and support to other church personnel involved in case management. The Panel members have specific experience, expertise and responsibilities in the management of risk.

Diocesan Support Person
In line with the Standards and 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 this service is provided by Sonia Hand, who is a retired 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.