Religious orders meet Quinn

Fri, Jul 22, 2011, 01:00

The Government “is fully satisfied that it is entirely right and proper that the managers of (residential) institutions be asked to meet a 50 per cent share of the major costs of dealing with abuse (of children),” Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn told religious congregations investigated by the Ryan Commission at a meeting in the Department of Education and Skills this afternoon.

“Putting it bluntly I believe that there is a moral responsibility on your congregations to significantly augment your contributions,” he said.

To date costs incurred by the State as a result of the abuse of children in the institutions is estimated at €1.36 billion. The State is seeking a €680 million (50 per cent) contribution towards this from the congregations. They have offered €374.5 million. Minister Quinn suggested in recent months that they make up the shortfall by signing over property to the State.

“Quite simply, this issue will not go away,” He said. “I believed the public supports the 50:50 approach and will not see the issue closed until that is delivered” he said. “I urge you therefore to reflect on these points and to revert to me and to revert to me at the earliest opportunity with your response. Less there be any ambituity, I am calling on you to significantly increase the cash offers that you have already made,” he said.

The meeting was attended by 14 of the 18 congregations which had managed the residential institutions for children investigated by the Ryan Commission. Absent from the meeting were the Rosminians, the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, and the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity “due to the timing of the meeting.”

Also absent were the Sisters of Mercy. They had requested a separate meeting with the Minister, which was renewed earlier this week, but declined the “meeting as part of a group of 18” today.

In a statement yesterday the Sister of Mercy said they believed they had been “misrepresented and demonised in recent years and that their congregation has been portrayed in a way that seeks to undermine their voluntary service to this country and beyond. They believe this is a very inaccurate reflection of their congregation.”

Minister Quinn said yesterday he would seek a bi-lateral meeting with the Sisters of Mercy as with the other congregations.

In his address to the congregations represented at today’s meeting he said the Government was “disappointed that the call made by the previous government for an enhanced contribution (from the congregations) yielded a very poor response.”

He noted that one congregation offered one million euro together with an offer to refund or all of its legal costs while another offered an old primary school. Many of the congregations had responded “by stating that you believed that you had met an appropriate share of the costs of redress.”

Their responses “both individually and collectively” had been “disappointing”, he said.

The Government, he said, wished to explore with the congregations “the possibility of putting in place a legal mechanism which would provide the State with a long-term option on the school infrastructure belonging to your congregations. This would in effect mean that the title to a property could not be altered, whether by sale on the open market or by transfer into any Trust arrangement, without the prior consent of the Department of Education.’

This represented “an avenue that should be considered… the context of making progress towards achievement of the 50:50 share.”

The Minister emphasized that this proposal was not “driven by ideology.” The Government’s “sole aim in this is to achieve a reasonable response in terms of meeting the costs of the response to abuse.”

Such schools “would remain Catholic schools and that would not be altered without agreement: the lands however would be available to the State,” he said.