Orders must give 'substantially more' to victims

 

CORI REACTION:RELIGIOUS CONGREGATIONS implicated in the child abuse scandal should make “substantial additional resources” available to the redress scheme for victims, Fr Seán Healy of the Conference of Religious of Ireland (Cori) Justice said yesterday.

Apologising for the “appalling” abuse carried out by members of 18 of Cori’s 138 member congregations, Fr Healy said: “The pain and hurt caused to so many people in these institutions by abuse on such a vast scale is horrendous. It was extensive and systemic. I was far worse than we had realised.”

“No words can convey the horror, pain, shame and anger felt by us at the revelations contained in that report. No words of apology can provide an adequate response to such abuse.”

Addressing a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Social and Family Affairs about the impact of recent budgets on the poor, Fr Healy stressed he was speaking for himself and for Sr Brigid Reynolds, also a director of Cori Justice, who accompanied him at the meeting.

On the question of financial redress, Fr Healy said: “Without doubt substantial additional resources should be made available . . . all options must be on the agenda, including the possibility of making a further much larger contribution to meet the bill for redress and to assist the victims.”

He added that everything possible should be done “both concretely and symbolically” to make restitution for the huge wrongs that had been done to some of the nation’s most vulnerable people.

Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Fr Healy said it would be “fair” for the congregations to fund 50 per cent of the controversial 2002 redress deal, the cost of which now stands at €1.3 billion.

Defending his decision not to speak publicly since the publication last week of the child abuse report, he said he wanted to allow the 18 congregations the time to respond to the findings. Moreover, the Cori leadership “above my level” had decided that all communications would be handled centrally.

“Insofar as I would have hurt anybody by the fact that I didn’t respond sooner, I would apologise for that,” he added.

“I have found it extremely difficult not to vent huge anger and not to vent in public my emotion to the level of abuse that was documented in the Ryan report – its systemic nature, its persistence over time, the incredible failure of religious leadership across not just one leadership team but across different teams for decades,” Fr Healy said.

Earlier this week, director general of Cori Sr Marianne O’Connor said the 18 congregations would prefer to “deal directly and to use all in their powers to channel whatever resources directly to the former residents” rather than revisit the terms of the redress deal with Government. Sr O’Connor said that reopening the deal would only serve to reimburse the State and would not help the victims.

If it were to be reopened, it could “end up in a legal quagmire” lasting months or years, she said.

“The deal is closed, the deal is done. It was done in good faith.”