Orders accused of self protection

 

A prominent victims’ support group has described the refusal by religious congregations to revisit the issue of redress for survivors of abuse as an “aggressive act of self protection”.

The Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) today rejected proposals by the congregations to channel more of their resources directly to the former residents rather than re-open the terms of the controversial 2002 compensation deal.

The RCNI said it was unacceptable for agencies involved in the systematic abuse revealed in the Ryan commission report “to promote themselves as best placed to meet the needs of those they have previously betrayed”.

“Under no circumstances can any office or agency of these institutions be involved in the administration of any such fund which, if agreed to, must be handed over fully to the state for any dispersal,” it said.

The religious orders responsible for abusing children in institutions have indicated they want to deal directly with victims rather than review the existing indemnity deal.

Director general of the Conference of Religious of Ireland (Cori) Marie Ann O’Connor said the 18 congregations would prefer to “deal directly and to use all in their powers to channel whatever resources directly to the former residents” rather than reopen the terms of the deal.

Victims’ advocate Christine Buckley described yesterday's statement by the religious congregations as “an emotional stunt” designed to maintain control over the vulnerable people who were abused in their institutions.

Ms Buckley, who is director of the Aislinn Centre which helps people who suffered abuse as children, said the congregations had not even adhered to what they were supposed to pay in the original indemnity deal.

In an interview with Newstalk Radiotoday, she said: “Under no circumstances should the religious congregations have anything to do survivors of abuse, because it will just be a complete revolving wheel of pain and blackmail".

The agreement between the congregations and the State indemnified the religious orders from all redress claims made by victims in exchange for payments and property transfers totalling €127 million. The total bill for the redress scheme is likely to be about €1.3 billion.

Ms O’Connor said that the congregations’ refusal to revisit the deal is “not a blocking mechanism or a way of saying no”.

She said: “I think as the congregations view it, the redress [deal] is not the best vehicle to do what they want to do.”

She said reopening the deal would only serve to reimburse the State and not help the victims.

And she hinted more resources would be made available to victims but “the best way to give that has not been found”.

In its statement, the RCNI said survivors of abuse wanted was the congregations to move quickly to take appropriate responsibility for the crimes perpetrated under their care.

“Sadly, yet again we see these institutions employ the legal profession and hide behind so called legal concerns in order to aggressively protect their self preservation at any cost,” it said.

“The result is a prolonged and protracted public debate, where many survivors feel they have no option but to go public about the details of the abuse they suffered in order to appeal for responsibility to be taken,”it added.

Last night the Catholic bishops pledged to “work closely with religious congregations and institutes in addressing the needs of survivors of abuse and in the healing process”

In a statement following a day-long meeting of the Standing Committee of the Irish Bishops’ Conference yesterday, they made no reference to the controversial 2002 church/State redress deal.

The Catholic primate Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin and Bishop of Killaloe Willie Walsh said the deal should be revisited and the 18 congregations concerned should contribute more.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet is to meet today to discuss the fallout from the publication of the Ryan commission report into institutional child abuse. The Attorney General is expected to brief the Cabinet on the legal implications of the report.