Pressure for increased payments expected

 

COMPENSATION DEAL:THE GOVERNMENT is expected to increase pressure upon the 18 religious organisations indemnified against child abuse actions by the State to pay more in compensation.

Ministers, who will hold their regular Cabinet meeting this morning, will gather again from 7pm for a special meeting to discuss the Ryan report findings on the orders of Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

Attorney General Paul Gallagher is expected to tell Ministers that the 2001 agreement with the Conference of Religious in Ireland cannot be reopened, unless they agree.

However, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny last night intensified the pressure by announcing that he is to seek a meeting with Cori, and he urged the Taoiseach to do the same.

Minister for Social and Family Affairs Mary Hanafin joined the calls for an extra contribution, describing the amount paid over so far as “very small”.

She acknowledged the comments made by Cardinal Seán Brady and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. “Knowing what we now know and seeing from the report last week, I have to say I welcome the comments of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and the Bishop of Down and Connor,” she said. “I think the church could look at themselves and see do they now believe that that contribution was sufficient. Looking at it in purely financial terms it was a very small amount.”

Ms Hanafin said the State had a responsibility too. “The State, by placing children in these institutions, had a responsibility, and that’s why the State is trying to live up to that responsibility now by making those payments. So the State could never have wiped its hands of it, and didn’t,” she said.

Defending the 2001 deal originally struck by former minister for education Michael Woods, Ms Hanafin said it “was the best that could be done at the time”, but the scale of the compensation paid since had not been anticipated by either side.

“At the time they made the contribution it would have been seen as a substantial contribution to the expected out-turn. Nobody anticipated that it was going to cost €1 billion,” she told The Irish Times last night.

“In light of that there certainly would be an argument for a greater contribution because of the number of people who came forward and the awards that we subsequently made to them.”

Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy has asked a senior officer to examine the Ryan report to see if it could provide the starting point for prosecutions now, on foot of a request from Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern.

The 2001 legal agreement could “not be unravelled” unless the religious organisations agreed, said Mr Ahern.

“When this was set up I don’t think people appreciated the enormity of what had happened. While there might not be a legal imperative there is a moral imperative on those who represent a proportion of those who committed awful crimes upon society.”

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore demanded a Dáil investigation into how then-taoiseach Bertie Ahern and then-minister Michael Woods agreed the deal in the first. “I have resisted any temptation to make the Ryan report itself a political issue. The Ryan report contains an appalling litany of abuse, of brutality against children.

“Brian Cowen should bring in the religious orders and re-negotiate the deal, and the Dáil – the body to which Ministers are accountable – should investigate how that deal was made,” he said.

“Dr Woods’s explanation [given during weekend interviews] was a bit of rambling self-justification, but it certainly wasn’t an explanation for the manner in which the deal was concluded, or for its content,” said Mr Gilmore.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said: “Private citizens would not get away with this. I think the Government has failed the victims by doing the deal in the first instance.”