Government was forced to set up redress scheme, say Oblates

Order claims there are ‘Legitimate grounds for reservations’ about Ryan report findings

Archive image of St Conleth’s Reformatory School, Daingean, Co Offaly or “Daingean” , taken from the report of the Child Abuse Commission.

Archive image of St Conleth’s Reformatory School, Daingean, Co Offaly or “Daingean” , taken from the report of the Child Abuse Commission.

 

The €1.5 billion redress scheme for those abused in Catholic institutions was forced on the Government of the day by victims groups and their legal representatives, a statement by one of the 18 religious congregations investigated by the Ryan Commission has said.

It also said findings in the Ryan Commission report were “not immune to challenge” and were “opinions come to by the Commission on a basis that would not be sufficient in a court of law”.

The remarks are made in a lengthy statement on the Oblates (Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate) website which, The Irish Times understands, reflects the general views of all 18 congregations investigated by the Ryan Commission.

The lengthy statement was prompted by a statement in the Seanad by Minister for Education Richard Bruton on March 10th last following publication that day of a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

It showed that the Ryan Commission and subsequent redress scheme set up to compensate people who suffered abuse in institutions run by the 18 congregations had cost €1.5 billion to the end of 2015. Government policy was that the congregations should share equal liability with the State, it said, but that as of the end of 2015 total contributions made by the congregations was €192 million.

The Oblate statement claimed such comments by politicians were 'immoral and should stop' as the congregations 'were adjuncts to the scheme, and certainly not partners'

Mr Bruton told the Seanad that many ordinary Catholics were “dismayed” by this and that “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”.

The Oblate statement claimed such comments by politicians were “immoral and should stop” as the congregations “were adjuncts to the scheme, and certainly not partners”.

Victims’ groups

The statement noted how “even before the investigation of abuse by the (Ryan) Commission had got under way, the Government – relying solely on the media exposés – had decided to compensate the protesters with awards fully-funded by the Government. Its hand was being forced by the refusal of victims’ groups, with the support of their legal representatives, to cooperate with an investigation unless such a scheme was put into immediate effect.”

It continued: “Both the Government and Ms Justice Mary Laffoy (who chaired the Commission prior to Mr Justice Seán Ryan) had wanted to wait until the investigation was completed. This was the logical thing to do perhaps, but events proved the wisdom of the victims’ stand – seven years were to pass before the Commission’s investigation was complete.”

By then “millions of euro had already been given out in awards and legal costs by the Redress Board. Clearly the awards were not related in any way to the investigation being conducted by the Commission. In fact a very clear line was drawn between the Commission’s activities and the Redress Board’s activities.” It was “strictly forbidden”.

Ms Justice Mary Laffoy chaired the Commission prior to Mr Justice Seán Ryan. Photograph: Alan Betson
Ms Justice Mary Laffoy chaired the Commission prior to Mr Justice Seán Ryan. Photograph: Alan Betson

But now the Government was “conflating the two operations, and adding the cost of both to the compensation bill. Has the State ever before in all its history demanded that the costs of a Dáil inquiry and compensation scheme be met by someone other than itself?”

Where the 2009 Ryan report itself was concerned the Oblate statement said there were “legitimate grounds for having serious reservations about the findings, without impugning the central message of the Report”.

There must always be serious reservations too in any context about evidence that is given long after the events described

It said: “We are not here in the zone of ‘evidence beyond all reasonable doubt’ or even of ‘probabilities’, certainly not ‘cast-iron facts’. There must always be serious reservations too in any context about evidence that is given long after the events described, or to a Commission with a statutory duty to adopt a therapeutic stance towards the complainants and in the shadow of a generous redress scheme, to mention just some factors.”

It said that “while the Dáil may sweepingly accept all the findings of the Commission for the purposes for which it was established, anyone who wants to rely on them for another purpose is not only entitled to quiz them but is morally bound to do so.

“Please note that, in saying this, one is not saying the findings were unfounded, but that they can and ought to be evaluated. In the present context, the religious congregations are constitutionally and morally entitled to form opinions of their own.”

More generally the statement concluded: “Bad things are still happening. And while, ‘in the old days’, bad things happened, it was not a desert waste. Surely, some balance has to be restored.”