Mother-and-baby home redress scheme ‘is not possible’

Due to cost Government says it cannot reopen programme for institutional abuse survivors

A shrine at a former mother-and-baby home in Tuam, Co Galway. The Government has said it ‘not possible’ to reopen the 2002 redress scheme. File photograph: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

A shrine at a former mother-and-baby home in Tuam, Co Galway. The Government has said it ‘not possible’ to reopen the 2002 redress scheme. File photograph: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

 

The Government has said it “not possible” to implement a recommendation to reopen the 2002 redress scheme in order to compensate survivors of institutional child abuse at mother-and-baby homes.

The recommendation is contained in the second interim report by the Commission of Investigation into Mother-and-Baby Homes.

The report was published on Tuesday, despite being submitted last September.

A Government statement after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting confirmed that the delay in publishing the second interim report was because of its recommendation for a redress scheme.

The Irish Times previously reported that the suggested reopening of the 2002 redress scheme - which cost €1.5 billion up to the end of 2015 - had caused alarm in Government circles, delaying the report’s publication.

A statement from the Department of Children after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting said “it is not possible to implement” such a scheme.

It said that the recommendation raised “important financial and legal questions” and that the 2002 scheme was “costly”.

“The Government is conscious that the commission has made no findings to date regarding abuse or neglect, and believes it would not be appropriate to deal with the question of redress in advance of any conclusions on this issue by the commission,” it said.

The statement also described the 2002 scheme as “complex to administer and often difficult for applicants”.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said: “Over the past few months, I have spoken to former residents and survivors of mother-and-baby homes and I am very sensitive to their needs and concerns.

“I have consulted in great detail with the Taoiseach, the Attorney General and other Ministers before we reached this conclusion.

“Rightly, this took some time, because I wanted to look at every possible option in conjunction with my Government colleagues.”

Delay

The delay in the report’s publication was also due to the Government waiting on a final report from the Comptroller and Auditor General into the initial redress scheme.

The Government statement said: “The challenges for Government in considering the recommendations of the commission at this interim stage of its work are clear from the findings of this report.”

The initial redress scheme was set up under the Residential Institutions Redress Act, 2002, to make “fair and reasonable awards” to those who were abused as children “while resident in industrial schools, reformatories and other institutions subject to State regulation or inspection” from the mid-1930s to the 1970s.

An indemnity agreement was also signed in 2002 between the State and 18 religious congregations, which meant the State became liable for any claims made against these organisations.

The religious orders agreed that they would contribute cash, property and other resources totalling €128 million towards the scheme.

However, at the end of 2015, €21 million of this total had yet to be transferred to the State.