Ahern criticises anti-church rhetoric by opponents of deal with religious

 

AGREEMENT WITH ORDERS:THE FORMER Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has criticised “anti-church” rhetoric in the aftermath of the publication of the Ryan report into the abuse of children in institutional care.

In an interview with Karen Coleman on Newstalk radio yesterday Mr Ahern said it was “simplistic” to argue that there was loads of land and money available to religious orders.

He said that this was “just anti-church”.

“You hear politicians hopping on the anti-Catholic Church. I think that’s sad, most of them were educated by the Catholic Church, and now here they are just jumping at it and running around wanting to sell Catholic schools and churches.”

Mr Ahern said that he had “no problem” with the perpetrators who abused children in State institutions being named and shamed and also defended his own actions in establishing the investigation.

“If I did not take the actions that I took, if I didn’t follow it through, none of this would have come to light other than a few television programmes and a few articles written.”

“I took it on, I put the legislative base, I took the structural base and that’s the real issue – that we’ve dealt with it, we’ve brought it to the fore.”

“We haven’t given compensation, we’ve given redress. Thats the issue that we should be focusing on, not other issues like having a go at people,” he said.

Meanwhile, former Fianna Fáil education minister Dr Michael Woods, who negotiated the agreement which saw religious congregations contribute €128 million towards the cost of the compensation scheme for victims of abuse, has strongly defended it as “the best deal that could have been done at the time”.

In an interview with Rachel English on RTÉ radio on Saturday, Dr Woods said it had been “an honourable deal, properly worked between the Government and the religious orders and their representatives”.

He said that it was a matter for the congregations if they wanted to pay more than the €128 million agreed under the deal.

The former minister questioned whether a Government could renege on a legal agreement and asked about the implications such a move could have on international investment in Ireland.

Dr Woods said that the bulk of the responsibility lay with the State as it was its courts that had placed the children in the institutions in the first place.

He said that test cases could have been taken to the Supreme Court to determine the proportion of responsibility between the parties but that the Government was not going to do that as it believed that the people concerned had suffered enough.

The former minister defended the decision to sign the deal with the religious orders on his last day in office in 2002. He said that he had wanted to get the agreement finished as the then government had given a promise that it would do so before the election.

He said that he had received letters from victims begging him not to leave the compensation agreement to another administration or minister to introduce.