Woods says 2002 deal subject of 'poorly informed comment'

 

FORMER MINISTER for education Dr Michael Woods claimed the 2002 deal between the then government and religious orders had been the subject of “some poorly informed comment”.

Some commentators, he said, had claimed that there should have been a full inventory of all the lands, schools, hospitals, care centres and other facilities, before accepting the contribution of the congregations who ran most of the institutions on the State’s behalf.

“This would have meant delay and more pain and suffering for the victims,” said Dr Woods.

“This was a no fault, no quibble, no legal contest scheme. We knew that very few cases would succeed in court. Accordingly, the cost would be far greater . . . if cases were contested in court.”

Dr Woods said it was the State’s decision “to behave at last in a magnanimous way to those whom it had offended by its actions in placing children in those horrific situations, and grossly neglecting them and ignoring all warnings and reports”.

The system which the State ran, he said, was the cause and the opportunity for those grievous offences against children.

Others, said Dr Woods, had said that the time should have been taken to allocate blame to all the parties involved.

“This, too, would involve delay and adversarial court proceedings,” he added.

“It would have put victims under renewed stress, and this the government would not do.” Dr Woods said the government had determined that the redress scheme be provided regardless of the involvement of anyone else.

“It was to be done by the State paying full compensation,” he added.

“This was seen as an issue for Irish society, and had to be dealt with fully and firmly once and for all.” Dr Woods said the allegation that it was a “sweetheart deal” between the government and the orders had been examined by the Public Accounts Committee and found not to be the case.

He said that the indemnity had come before a Dáil committee, the Dáil and Seanad. It was fully and openly discussed and had the benefit of the advice of the then attorney general, his office, and experts in the departments of finance and education, and others.

Dr Woods said now that the full extent of child abuse had been revealed in the Ryan report, the Government and the Dáil rightly supported a call for additional contributions from the congregations.

Pat Rabbitte (Labour) said that Dr Woods, “like the Japanese soldier who emerged from the forest 40 years after the war was over”, was still defending the congregations.

Roísín Shortall (Labour) accused Dr Woods of rewriting history and called on the then attorney general, Michael McDowell, to make a public statement on his involvement in the matter.

Expressing reservations about the format of the Dáil debate, she said: “A lot of breast beating is going on, accompanied by talk that I find difficult to stomach.

“We should have dealt with the issue differently, and I would have liked more honesty in the debate.”