State to receive audit of 18 congregations next week

 

AN INDEPENDENT audit of the assets of 18 religious congregations which were party to the controversial 2002 redress agreement with the State is to be presented to the Government next Wednesday.

The congregations, whose management of residential institutions for children led to the recent Ryan report, agreed to the audit at a meeting in Government Buildings on June 5th last with Taoiseach Brian Cowen and senior Ministers.

The congregations agreed at that meeting to contribute to a trust the Taoiseach proposed be set up, so that further financial and other supports can be provided to people who had been in the institutions as children. They also committed themselves to identifying resources, “both financial and other, within a transparent process with a view to delivering upon commitments made today.”

Meanwhile, East London Labour Party councillor Sally Mulready has called on Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe to find ways to amend the Redress Act to allow for late applications to be accepted by the redress board.

Founder of the Irish Women Survivors Support Network in Britain, and a former resident of institutions for children in Ireland up to 1966, she said that most late applications to the board were because former residents did not know about the redress scheme.

Others were too ill ‘‘or, in huge numbers of cases, they simply found it too difficult and too traumatic to go through with their applications and dropped out half way through,’’ she said. She has also been critical of the manner in which the redress board has handled applications. Noting that ‘‘the intention of the Redress Act when introduced was to allow for a straightforward application process that would be non-adversarial and supportive’’, she said ‘‘that has not been the case.’’ Survivors who rejected offers ‘‘were punished with reduced offers, and other similar punitive actions taken,’’ she said.

Where a number of late applications were heard by the board before Christmas she said ‘‘the experience of survivors at these hearings was variously described as being treated as if in a Court of law.’’

Her group had written to the Minister three times drawing his attention to this and asking that he urgently review it. ‘‘We have pointed out that it would lead to injustice and unfairness and substantial numbers of survivors being excluded from the redress compensation scheme. He has declined to take any action,’’ she said.

She believed this issue must be addressed ‘‘before it becomes another scandal rightly perceived by survivors as more abuse.’’

The Redress Act needed urgent review, she said ‘‘ to lift all barriers to applying for compensation, to lift other prohibitive gagging orders and the nightmare experience of having an offer reduced if an applicant complains,’’ she said.