Church accepts child abuse compensation terms

 

Eighteen Catholic religious orders are to contribute €128 million to the Government compensation fund for the victims of physical and sexual abuse in child care institutions, the Department of Education confirmed today.

Dr Michael Woods welcomed the agreement with the Catholic Church, saying it was the result of "long and painstaking" negotiations.

The minister said it marked the commitment of the Government and the religious congregations to help people "who have been hurt as children to find some peace and comfort in their lives".

In return for the Church contribution, the State will indemnify the religious orders in cases that are covered by new legislation called the Residential Institutions Redress Act and "that are the subject of court awards".

The institutions, which included reform schools, orphanages, children's homes and hospitals, were funded by the State and managed by the Church congregations.

Estimates of the final cost of the overall compensation scheme have ranged from €250 to €500 million. The Government will meet the balance of what has to be paid out.

"This agreement is the final link in a chain of measures which we have put in place to address the historic wrong done to some of the most vulnerable children in our society and to help their families towards a better future," Dr Woods said.

The religious congregations are to make a cash payment of not less than €41.14 million, of which €12.7 million will go towards educational programmes. Today’s agreement provides for the transfer of €76.86 million worth of Church property to the state.

Since 2000, the Laffoy Commission has been investigating child abuse in the institutions dating back to 1940. Over 3,000 people claiming they suffered abuse as children have applied to give evidence.

The Commission said last November that it would not be in a position to publish its final report until some time in the year 2005 at the earliest due to the amount of evidence.

Most of the applications have come from Ireland and Northern Ireland. But over a third are Irish people living in Britain, other European countries, the United States, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, all of whom are also claiming they suffered abuse as children.