Mother and baby homes: up to €1bn needed for ‘modest redress’

Church leaders asked to make significant contributions to a compensation scheme

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman has asked officials to advance proposals by the end of this month, after which he will meet church leaders to discuss the findings of the commission of investigation into the homes. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman has asked officials to advance proposals by the end of this month, after which he will meet church leaders to discuss the findings of the commission of investigation into the homes. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

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The Government is working on the basis that it will need up to €1 billion to provide even “modest redress” to survivors of mother and baby homes as it presses church leaders to make significant contributions to a scheme.

The preliminary calculation by officials comes as the Government sets the ground for what are likely to be difficult and complex talks with Catholic Church and Church of Ireland leaders. “You’re talking about up to €1 billion and that would be for modest redress,” said a person involved in the preparations.

Such a sum would be in addition to the estimated €1.5 billion cost to date of other church redress schemes.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman has asked officials to advance proposals by the end of this month, after which he will meet church leaders to discuss the findings of the commission of investigation into the homes.

The Government wants to build into any plan a mechanism to ensure a swift handover of money or property because transfers under the 2002 indemnity deal with Catholic orders and a 2009 agreement are still not complete.

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“Part of the logic behind it is to learn from what happened in other previous schemes,” said a second Government official.

Financial contributions

In letters to Catholic and Church of Ireland leaders, and six Catholic congregations involved in the homes, Mr O’Gorman said in January that they “may wish to consider” making financial contributions to redress and other measures.

“I believe that all relevant parties, including the State and others who were involved in the management or delivery of these services, have a shared moral and ethical obligation to support appropriate actions in response to this report,” Mr O’Gorman said.

The letters went to the Catholic primate, Archbishop Eamon Martin, and Dr Diarmuid Martin, who retired soon afterwards as Archbishop of Dublin. They also went to the Church of Ireland primate, Archbishop John McDowell, and Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson.

Asked whether Catholic leaders would make a financial contribution, a spokesman said a meeting with Mr O’Gorman was agreed with no date yet fixed. Archbishop Eamon Martin had stated when the report was published “that the church owes it to survivors to commit to doing what we can to support them”.

Asked whether the Church of Ireland would contribute, its spokesman said a meeting was expected with Mr O’Gorman. “The church has indicated its willingness to engage with the Minister about these areas... The church anticipates there will be greater clarity around the issues following this meeting.”

Some €239.93 million has been realised to date from the 2002 and 2009 agreements with Catholic orders. The transfer of two remaining 2002 properties are still unfinished but due to close shortly. Two 2009 property transfers are still in progress and proceeds are awaited from a Sisters of Mercy property sale.