Spiritans told to keep records as Coalition debates shape of potential inquiry into sexual abuse

Inside Politics: Cabinet to consider student accommodation plans while TDs complain about ‘freezing’ offices

The allegations of abuse of former pupils at Blackrock College and other schools is the focus of continuing deliberations in Government over what form a possible inquiry should take and how many schools should be included.

The discussions are likely to take some time as the Coalition seeks to devise an inquiry that will be victim-led and acceptable to survivors while also avoiding an investigation that could take many years to reach any conclusions.

Political Editor Pat Leahy and Jack Power report on the latest developments in today’s lead, outlining how the Government has requested that the Spiritan order – which runs Blackrock College – retain all its assets and maintain all records related to sexual abuse allegations in its schools.

The move is thought to be in anticipation of an inquiry into the handling of historical abuse allegations in several high-profile schools run by the order, formerly known as the Holy Ghost Fathers, and a potential compensation scheme for victims.


Minister for Education Norma Foley has written to the leaders of the Spiritans, reminding the order of its obligation to retain all records in relation to abuse allegations and also requesting that all its assets in Ireland should be retained, given the potential future need to support survivors, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Spiritan order recently said it had congressional assets worth more than €57 million.

Ms Foley is expected to brief ministerial colleagues at this morning’s Cabinet meeting.

It is understood that preliminary discussions have taken place in the Department of Education about who might be approached to lead any proposed inquiry. Senior sources have warned, however, that the criticism levelled at the members of the Mother and Baby Homes inquiry after it published its report could act as a deterrent for anyone who might be asked to conduct such an inquiry.

Officials are examining whether the inquiry should be limited to past child abuse in schools that were run by the Spiritan congregation, or extended wider to cover other religious orders who ran schools.

Sources familiar with the discussions have suggested that containing an inquiry to a small number of schools could be very difficult, as further allegations of past abuse elsewhere continue to surface.

On the opinion pages, Fintan O’Toole argues that State should seize the records of religious orders without delay.

He writes: “If there is one thing the State can and must do immediately, in the face of a new wave of revelations about abuse by religious orders, it is to take possession of the archives of those orders.”

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Elsewhere, Health Editor Paul Cullen has the good news that there has been a more than 50 per cent rise in cancer survivors in Ireland in a decade.

Jennifer Bray reports on one of the more unusual aspects of a proposed law being brought to Cabinet today. Organisers of exhibitions featuring real preserved human bodies will have to obtain a special licence and answer questions about the provenance of the specimens, as part of the Human Tissue Bill. The legislation would also bring about a new “soft opt-out” system for organ donation.

Spare a thought for politicians and Oireachtas workers in freezing Leinster House offices. They were told the heating would not be turned on until the start of October at the earliest during a cold snap in September due to the need to show leadership in the energy crisis. We have a report on the contacts between TDs and Leinster House management here.


The Cabinet is meeting this morning. It is to consider plans to increase student accommodation places; the appointment of a new chairperson for RTÉ; and proposals to order 90 new battery-electric train carriages for Iarnród Éireann. Jennifer Bray has details here.

Dáil proceedings kick off at 2pm with Taoiseach Micheál Martin to take Leaders’ Questions from Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats, the Independent Group and the Rural Independent Group.

Government business in the afternoon will be statements on the Cop27 international climate action summit from 3.50pm.

From 6.15pm, the Dáil will debate a Sinn Féin motion calling for the scrapping of planed road toll increases.

The transport committee will quiz Transport Infrastructure Ireland chief executive Peter Walsh on the toll increases in committee room two from 7pm. He is to warn that freezing the toll charges at 2022 levels could mean higher increases for 2024. We report on what he is expected to tell TDs and Senators here.

Dáil proceedings later in the evening are parliamentary questions to Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys (8.15pm) and Topical Questions from 9.45pm.

Elsewhere, the committee on housing will meet representatives of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) on recent trends in the private rental sector from 3pm.

The full Dáil, Seanad and committee schedules can be found here, here and here.

For those interested in a small soccer ball tournament in the Middle East the action starts at 3pm with Ecuador v Senegal and the Netherlands v Qatar.

But the big games are from 7pm with Iran v USA and England v Wales.