Orders should give more to redress scheme, says Healy

 

The religious congregations should make further financial contributions to the Government’s redress scheme for abuse survivors, Fr Seán Healy of the Conference of Religious of Ireland (Cori)’s justice department said today.

Fr Healy signalled today that the 18 congregations mentioned in the Ryan commission report should fund up to 50 per cent of the controversial 2002 redress deal, the cost of which currently stands at €1.3 billion.

Insisting he was speaking independently of Cori, Fr Healy told the Social & Family Affairs Committee in Leinster House today: “Without doubt substantial additional resources should be made available by the congregations involved.

“We are not aware what resources the 18 congregations have. If financial resources exist, then they should be applied to addressing this reality. If financial resources do not exist, then other resources that are available should be contributed.”

Fr Healy said the Ryan report findings, released a week ago, were a catalogue of injustice characterised by an unspeakable level of abuse of human dignity and a massive lack of compassion.

“The pain and hurt caused to so many people in these institutions on such a vast scale is horrendous,” Fr Healy told the Oireachtas committee. “It was extensive and systemic. It was far worse that we realised. No words can convey the horror, pain, shame and anger felt by us at the revelations contained in the report.”

Fr Healy said the damage caused to innocent children was incalculable and had major repercussions for them and their families across several generations. He quoted the Gospel and invoked the principals of the Towards 2016social partnership document, which cherishes all children equally.

He told the all-party body that failings at every level by religious orders were reprehensible.

Fr Healy said: “All options must be on the agenda including the possibility of making a further much larger contribution to meet the bill for redress and to assist the victims.”

Fr Healy’s call come as several religious congregations said they would join the Christian Brothers in reviewing how to make amends to victims of abuse.

Cori represents 138 religious orders, including the 18 congregations that abused children in their institutions.

Last night Taoiseach Brian Cowen called for the 18 congregations to provide further money to victims and to attend new talks on how they can pay.

Nuns from the Sisters of Mercy said they accepted Mr Cowen’s invitation to talks and also “looked forward to considering ways of addressing the very serious issues that are now before us”.

The Sisters of St Clare today also confirmed their intention to make additional resources available to former residents. The order accepted the invitation to talks and said they would work with those who have suffered and other congregations in searching for the best way of making this response.

“We again apologise unreservedly for the wrongs done by members of our congregation” said Sr Patricia Rogers Abbess today.

The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters also issued statements today saying they welcomed the Taoiseach’s invitation.

“We recognise the vital need to find new ways of addressing the extreme hurt being felt by so many people and we will do our utmost to this end,” the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity statement read

“We are determined to respond in the most effective and meaningful way to former residents who were abused while in our care. We recognise the suffering of past residents, who were abused and we again apologise unreservedly to them for our failures,” a statement from the Good Shepherd Sisters said.

A statement issued this evening by another order, the Oblates, which ran the notorious Daingean Reformatory in Co Offaly, said it would contact the Government to discuss the allocation of financial resources towards meeting the needs of those who have suffered in their care and to promote the implementation of the recommendations in the Ryan report.

"We the Oblates of Mary Immaculate stand accused and ashamed of the abuse that happened in St Conleth’s Reformatory, Daingean. We acknowledge that the system failed the children in our care. We take responsibility and unreservedly apologise and ask forgiveness for our part in that failure."

Yesterday, the Christian Brothers' congregation promised to commit “substantial resources’’ to former residents of institutions managed by them.

On Monday, Cardinal Sean Brady, the Catholic Primate of All Ireland, said all 18 religious congregations involved in managing institutions investigated by the Ryan commission should revisit the 2002 redress deal agreed with the State and that all of them should contribute more.

The 2002 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. However, the total bill for the redress scheme is now likely to be about €1.3 billion.

In their statement yesterday, the Brothers said that “as a congregation, we recognise and accept our culpability along with our moral obligation to former residents, to present and future generations of children and to society as a whole”.

This morning Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea said the Government is adamant the religious orders will make a significant contribution. Mr O’Dea refused to be drawn on the size of figures involved if any but he said the Government “will make sure the religious congregations meet their obligations in this regard.”

He said how much they pay depends on the “resources available to them”.

Speaking on RTÉ radio he said: “The first step is we will be calling in the religious congregations and we’ll see where we go from there.”

Bernadette Fahy, a former resident of the Goldenbridge industrial school in Dublin, welcomed the Government’s move by saying it marked “progress“. She said any money should be handed over to an independent trust to keep it “as distant” from the religious orders as possible.

John Kelly, spokesman of the Irish Survivors of Child Abuse group, called for all files on abusers to be handed over to the gardaí.