Religious have ‘moral responsibility’ for half cost of redress scheme

Richard Bruton calls on congregations to respect view of successive governments

Religious orders have a "moral responsibility'' to honour a commitment to pay half the cost of compensating those who were abused in their institutions, Minister for Education Richard Bruton has said.

He said they should respect the view of successive governments that a 50:50 share-out was correct. “Once again I appeal to the institutions to honour the commitments they made.’’

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

Mr Bruton told the Seanad on Thursday the State’s liability was always going to be determined on the extent to which it was involved, regulated or oversaw an institution. That was the basis on which the 50:50 split was deemed a fair allocation in the case of the residential institutions.


In those cases, he said, the State had taken the children away from their parents through the courts and otherwise, and entrusted them to the care of the congregations. The State had a responsibility and, through the department, oversaw the regulation of those institutions.


“As such, a share of responsibility fell on both sides,’’ said Mr Bruton. “If we are to put this behind us, that share-out must be respected.’’

The Minister was replying to Independent Senator Victor Boyhan, who said the scheme was not just about handing out money to people. It was there to support them with counselling, housing and general support.

Mr Boyhan said a number of the orders were operating schools and hospitals and availing of public funds.

“While the public can ultimately name and shame them, we must at the end of the day examine whether it is right and proper to fund and assist these congregations where they fail to face up to their responsibilities.’’

Mr Bruton said the mission of the religious orders was to protect and serve and uphold moral values.


“Many ordinary Catholics are dismayed we are not getting closer to seeing these commitments honoured but instead are moving further away.

“Unfortunately, as a result of agreements put in place by previous governments, we have no legal mechanisms open to use to compel the congregations to meet these targets.’’

He said in the last government the then minister for education Ruairi Quinn had worked hard in holding meetings and engaging directly with the congregations to seek to put moral pressure on them to deliver.

“Unfortunately, after today’s report we have to ask questions as to why organisations with stated missions to serve the public and uphold moral codes apparently place so little importance on these values.’’

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

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