Lenihan welcomes Church remarks on abuse scheme


Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan has welcomed calls for the religious orders to increase their contributions to the State's compensation fund for victims of institutional child abuse.

But Mr Lenihan and the Taoiseach both said today the Government may not have the legal ability to force the religious orders to make a larger contribution.

Two senior Catholic figures have said today that the religious orders named in the Ryan report into child abuse in institutions should contribute more to the State compensation scheme for victims.

Special advisor to Cardinal Seán Brady, Father Tim Bartlett, told Radio Ulster this morning that his personal view was that the orders should pay more than the €127 million capped by the 2002 agreement with the State.

Fr Bartlett said those who ran the industrial school system should take responsibility for child abuse. He said the relevant members of the Conference of Religious in Ireland who ran the schools should pay more.

Speaking on the Sunday Sequenceprogramme, Fr Bartlett said the next step for the Church was "genuine repentance". He said that should include "every dimension of acknowledgement including compensation". Father Bartlett also said the Church should also ask the question "what more can we do, not what more must we do."

Bishop of Down and Connor Dr Noel Treanor echoed Father Bartlett’s comments.

"This issue must be openly and transparently examined, discussed with honesty, integrity, and openness, bearing in mind that there is obviously an ethical and moral respon on the part of the church and society to address this issue."

Dr Treanor told RTÉ’s This Week programme that Fr Bartlett’s view that the Church should pay more to the State compensation scheme was a comment "of integrity of personal honesty inspired by a concern for natural justice for the pursuit of a morally integral resolution of this issue."

"I salute his courage and I support him in his comment."

Taoiseach Brian Cowen said it would not be "helpful" for him to speculate on the comments beyond saying the Government would look at all aspects of the issue.

The overall cost of the scheme is expected to surpass €1.3 billion, over nine times the contribution made by the religious orders.

The report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse published this week outlined a horrific litany of physical and sexual abuse against children in institutions run by a number of religious orders over several decades.

The Government has come under renewed pressure from the two main Opposition parties to reopen the 2002 agreement. Fine Gael and the Labour Party separately said it was incumbent on the State to ensure the religious congregations pay more.

On Friday, the Conference of Religious in Ireland (Cori), which negotiated the controversial deal on behalf of 18 congregations, said that none of the orders planned to revisit the deal.

A spokesman for the umbrella body which represents over 80 religious congregations on the island of Ireland, said last night that “as far as we are aware none of the congregations concerned plan to revisit the terms of the agreement made in good faith’’.

The Government will hold a special Cabinet meeting next Tuesday to consider the report and the Dáil will hold a two-day debate on the matter.

There were emotional scenes in Dublin this weekend as members of the public queued to sign a book of solidarity for the victims of abuse.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and Fine Gael leader were among the thousands of people who arrived to sign the book at the Mansion House.

Lord Mayor of Dublin Ebhlin Byrne said she had been approached in recent days by members of the public wishing to express their solidarity with those who had fallen victim to sexual and physical abuse in State institutions as children.