Orders to meet Govt on redress

 

The 18 religious congregations, cited by the Ryan report for abusing children under their care, have said they will meet the Government to explore ways at providing “further support and assistance” to survivors of abuse.

The orders met at an unspecified location in Dublin today amid growing calls for them to increase the level of financial redress to former residents who suffered abuse.

In a statement this evening, the 18 congregations said they were available to meet with Taoiseach Brian Cowen “to explore the most effective and most appropriate ongoing response to former residents of institutions”.

"We are committed as individual congregations to make contributions which can offer further support and assistance to former residents. The details of what is required will be discussed at our meetings with An Taoiseach and his representatives," their statement said.

The 2002 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.

In its statement tdoay, the congregations said as charities they had “services and trustee responsibilities” to support and that these responsibilities would have to be considered.

“Our current deliberations will consider these responsibilities in the overall context of the challenges now before us - and which we are determined to meet with generosity and ongoing commitment," they said.

The orders said today’s discussions centred on the findings and recommendations of the Ryan report and “the horrific accounts presented by individual former residents about their lives in care”.

“Children were abused and not listened to, and we are ashamed that many of us failed them in different ways. We once again deeply apologise to those who were abused and ask for their forgiveness," they said.

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

Up until this evening, 10 congregations had indicated they would meet the Government next week to explore how best more of their resources can be used to help people abused as children in institutions they managed and which were investigated by the Ryan commission.

It is understood that today's discussions also dealt with whether to constitute themselves as a group in the context of dealings with the Government, or whether they will conduct such dealings separately or under the umbrella of the Conference of Religious of Ireland (Cori).

It is believed that a preference has grown on the part of Cori that the relevant congregations either constitute themselves as a separate group for the purposes of dealing with Government on redress matters or that they do so individually.

Until last Tuesday all 18 had been acting under the Cori umbrella with its director general Sr Marianne O’Connor acting as spokeswoman. Since then each congregation, which has expressed a view, has done so separately.

Yesterday’s motion by the Dáil called on the 18 congregations to “commit to making further substantial contributions by way of reparation”.

However, a trust funded by the congregations to pay for extra support for victims, along with more education and welfare service, must be “set up and managed by the State”, they insisted.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore yesterday urged the Government to voluntarily publish all documents relating to the negotiation of the 2002 deal between the congregations and the State.

“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," he said.

Labour has also raised concerns over the fate of case documentation held by the Child Abuse Commission. Speaking in the Dáil, 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 but said she would speak with the Attorney General to see if it could be retained.