Labour seeks release of 2002 abuse-deal terms

 

There have been further calls today for full disclosure of the value of assets belonging to religious congregations and the terms of the 2002 deal made with the government in the wake of the Ryan report into institutionalised child abuse.

Earlier today, the Dáil passed an all-party motion that apologised to the victims of childhood abuse for the failure to intervene, accepted all the recommendations of the Ryan report, and called on the congregations to commit to making further substantial contributions in reparations.

In a statement issued this afternoon, Labour leader Eamon Gilmore urged the Government to voluntarily publish all documents relating to the negotiation of the 2002 deal between the congregations and the State.

The deal indemnified the religious orders from all redress claims made by victims in exchange for payments and property transfers totalling €127 million. The total bill for the redress scheme is likely to be about €1.3 billion.

Speaking while campaigning in Cork, Mr Gilmore said: “From the very beginning the Fianna Fáil government has attempted to impose a veil of secrecy over the negotiations that led to the 2002 deal and have refused to release most of the documentation relating to it.

“Shortly after the deal was concluded my colleague, Deputy Roisin Shortall . . . applied under the Freedom of Information to the Department of Education for the release of all documentation relating to the deal. . . . The response from the Department listed 146 documents but, incredibly, it agreed to the release of just six. The handful of documents released were of little relevance," Mr Gilmore said.

“If, as the Fianna Fáil ministers who were involved in the deal insist, everything was above board and that there is nothing to hide, then these documents should now be published by the government by being placed in the library of the Oireachtas.

“There are many questions that remain regarding how the negotiations were conducted; the level of involvement of the Office of the Attorney General; the congregations’ knowledge of the extent of the abuse that took place in the institutions they ran; and the steps, if any, that the government took at the time to establish the extent of the assets available to the religious orders. The publication of these documents would answer some of these questions," he said.

“I am also deeply concerned at reports that the Ryan Commission may be considering the destruction of tens of thousands of original documents detailing the abuse of children that came into their possession during its hearings," he added.

Speaking in the Dáil this morning, Labour's Joan Burton said there were "strong indications" the commission was leaning toward destruction of the documents and said this would be an "appalling insult" to victims of abuse.

Responding, Minister for Health, Mary Harney, said what happened the documentation was an issue for Judge Ryan. "Very often in relation to these matters, information is given on a confidential basis . . . whether or not it can be retained is a different issue, and I will speak to the Attorney on that matter," she said.

Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin called for full disclosure of the assets of the 18 culpable religious orders arising from the report of the Child Abuse Commission.

“The Dáil today passed an all-party motion, which I co-signed with the Taoiseach and the other party leaders, recognising that supporting the victims and survivors must be the priority for all concerned and calling on the religious orders to make further substantial contributions by way of reparation.

“There needs to be full disclosure of all of the assets of these orders. This should include assets held abroad. The Taoiseach should seek such a full disclosure in his meeting with the congregations next week and if it is not forthcoming should initiate a mechanism to secure it," Mr Ó Caoláin said.

A two-day debate on the child-abuse motion will take place when the Dáil reconvenes following the local and European elections early next month.

An Garda Síochána has advised anyone wishing to provide information relating to the Ryan report or a criminal offence arising from it to contact a dedicated phone number (01-6663612) at the offices of Assistant Commissioner, National Support Services, Harcourt Square, Dublin 2. This line will be manned during office hours, Monday to Friday.

People can also can write to the Offices of the Assistant Commissioner, National Support Services, Harcourt Square, Dublin 2, with envelopes marked "Ryan Report".