Gilmore urges audit of assets of orders

 

LABOUR LEADER Eamon Gilmore has said that consideration should be given to an audit of the religious congregations’ assets by the Revenue Commissioners or the Criminal Assets Bureau.

Mr Gilmore also suggested that “one of these agencies might also investigate whether congregations have been transferring out assets in anticipation of any request for a further contribution”.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen said he had already outlined in a statement that the congregations must make additional voluntary contributions.

“I also indicated that, quite apart from the moral responsibility the congregations have to the victims in the light of the conclusions in the Ryan report, which outlines in graphic detail the systemic abuse that took place in the relevant institutions during the period investigated by the commission, the court of public opinion should be very persuasive in this regard.”

Mr Gilmore demanded that any new deal with the religious congregations be discussed by the Dáil.

“Is it the intention of the Taoiseach that, unlike what happened in 2002, whatever is concluded with the congregations should be considered by the House?.

“It is the view of the Labour Party that this should happen.”

Mr Cowen said additional contributions that could not be legally imposed were involved.

In the aftermath of the discussions with the religious congregations “and agreement being reached, I have no problem with it being discussed in this House”.

Mr Gilmore asked what level the contribution would be. Mr Cowen said that were no means by which the Government could legally impose a solution.

“Congregations have varying roles in terms of the number of institutions and the contribution they were making in respect of these schools and institutions. I do not have a preconceived notion of what is adequate.

“I must see the full resources available to these congregations in order to make that judgment.”

Mr Gilmore asked how Mr Cowen would do that.

Mr Cowen replied: “I intend to do that by discussing with them and placing an onus on them to outline, in a transparent way, what resources they have available and the contribution they intend to make.”

Mr Gilmore observed: “And take their word for it?”

Mr Cowen said: “Then I will discuss the adequacy of the offer made and ensure the court of public opinion is of persuasive effect in that respect.”

He added that the previous agreement reached was conducted by the Government in respect of the Civil Liability Act.

It was, he said, “a totally legitimate exercise in making sure people got access to speedy compensation and redress, without people having to go through the court system on an individual basis where they would have to provide higher levels of proof than what was required in the redress scheme, which I regard as a compassionate and good scheme that enabled people to get access to redress far more quickly than would have been the case were traditional legal routes followed”.

Earlier, Mr Gilmore said it was important that the exercise should not become some kind of repeat of the “sweetheart deal” of 2002.