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Congregation says government was 'forced' to set up €1.5 billion redress scheme for abuse victims

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, one of the 18 congregations investigated by the Ryan Commission, has published a statement on the matter.

90146260_90146260 Artane Boys Industrial School, now called St David's Source: Mark Stedman/Rollingnews.ie

IRELAND’S GOVERNMENT HAD no choice but to set up a redress scheme for victims of clerical abuse in 139 residential institutions before the commission investigating such historical abuse had been able to provide findings, a Catholic congregation has claimed.

In a statement on its website, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, one of the 18 congregations investigated by the Ryan Commission into historical abuse, suggests that such an approach, in effect compelling religious orders to share the burden of redress with the government, poses a “moral challenge” to the religious.

The lengthy statement has been made in apparent response to a statement made by Minister for Education Richard Bruton to the Seanad last month, in which the Minister opined that ordinary Catholics are “dismayed” that the congregations have not been sharing in the cost of redress equally, and that it is “disappointing” that “the organisations responsible for protecting children, which managed the institutions in which these horrendous acts took place, would apparently place so little value on their responsibility”.

To date, redress under the scheme has amounted to some €1.5 billion, with the various congregations contributing about 6%, or €96 million, of that total and the government paying the remainder.

The Ryan Commission, formerly known as the Laffoy Commission, began its investigations in 1999, and published its public report, better known as the Ryan report, in 2009.

The redress scheme itself was set up in 2002, with the various congregations being given legal indemnity from prosecution by the government of the day as part of the deal.

In its statement today, the Oblates states that Bruton’s stance regarding redress is “a grave challenge” to the congregations concerned.

Answers expected

It insists that the congregations are well aware that answers are expected of them, as the “apostolic visitation conducted by the Holy See in 2011 required the religious orders to examine themselves in the light of the report”.

The Oblates says that “it is clear that, even before the investigation of abuse by the Commission had got underway, the government – relying solely on the media exposés – had decided to compensate the protesters with awards fully-funded by the government”.

Its (the government) 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.
Both the government and Ms Justice Mary Laffoy had wanted to wait until the investigation was completed. This was the logical thing to do perhaps.

However, the congregation insists that in the beginning of the redress scheme, in 2002, the government had said with regard to the scheme that it had been “set up without regard to whether the religious would be involved”.

The Oblates cites the personal opinion of then-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, delivered to the Commission in 2005: “He said he saw this abuse as an issue for Irish society as a whole.”

Clearly, the religious were ready to cooperate, but from the point of view of the government their participation was not essential. They were adjuncts to the scheme, and certainly not partners.

The statement claims that statements by politicians, such as that made by Bruton, equates to “moral pressure”, and “should stop”.

There are other names for it. Morally speaking, the government should be helping the public to understand a complex situation, not confusing it.

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