Harris calls on Vatican to force religious orders to pay share of abuse money

Minister for Health criticises ‘pathetic and paltry’ amount paid to date

Minister for Health Simon Harris has called on the Vatican and Irish church leaders to put pressure on religious orders to pay half the cost of compensating those abused in Catholic institutions.

Mr Harris said the congregations’ current contribution was “pathetic and paltry’’, adding that Irish religious leaders should tell them to pay up now.

“And I think that call should go all the way to the Vatican as well,’’ he added.

He said the Government would use “every legal tool’’ at its disposal in pursuing the matter.


A Comptroller and Auditor General report revealed last week religious orders have contributed just €192 million of the €1.5 billion the redress scheme cost to the end of 2015.

Responding, Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the orders had a "moral responsibility'' to meet the 50:50 share-out of the cost involved.

Speaking on RTE's The Week in Politics on Sunday, Mr Harris said he had heard religious leaders make points in recent days about the Tuam baby scandal, some of which were welcome.

“It is indefensible and extraordinarily disappointing that not one of those religious leaders, in this country or indeed abroad, have come out and called on the institutions to pay their contributions,’’ he added.

He said there was an agreement there would be a 50:50 share-out, but the Church had not stepped up to the plate.

The child abuse inquiry and subsequent redress scheme was set up to compensate people who suffered abuse in institutions run by the religious orders.

The redress scheme cost €1.25 billion by the end of 2015, which is five times the original estimate of €250 million.

And while the scheme is now largely complete, there will be ongoing costs arising from continuing supports for those affected.

It is Government policy that the religious orders involved should share equal liability. But as of end 2015 the total contributions made by them is €192 million, according to the C&AG report.

Of the total cost of € 1.25 billion arising from the awards scheme, the actual awards came to €970 million while legal fees were €192.9 million. And 98 per cent of applicants relied on legal advice when seeking redress.

The bulk (85 per cent) of the awards, of which there were 15,579, were for less than € 100,000 and the average was €62,250. The highest award was €300,000.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times