Reopening of redress agreement not ruled out
RTE News Thursday, 21 May 2009 22:13
The Tánaiste has refused to rule out reopening the agreement with the religious orders on redress payments to the victims of child abuse.
Mary Coughlan said all matters raised by the report of the Commission into Child Abuse would be discussed at a special meeting of the Government next week.
Despite being asked several times, she declined to either confirm or deny that reopening the compensation deal would form part of the Government's discussions.
However, Minister for Education Batt O'Keeffe has ruled out a renegotiation of the Church's liabilities to compensate survivors.
Minister O'Keeffe told RTÉ News this evening that such a move would be impossible.
The Taoiseach has said the report has outlined in graphic detail a horrendous and appalling vista of abuse in institutions all over the country.
Brian Cowen said the Department of Education would have to take its share of responsibility for what happened.
However, he added that the Government has not yet determined if compensation deals for the abused, which were agreed previously, could be re-opened.
The Taoiseach said the Government would meet next week to see in what way they could consider the recommendations made in the report.
Under the deal, the contribution of the religious orders to the Redress Scheme was capped at €127m - it is estimated that the State will end up paying around ten times that amount.
Redress issue raised in Dáil
This morning, Opposition parties were critical of current child protection practices, claiming that enough still had not been done by the State.
There was no political disagreement on the gravity of the issues raised by yesterday's report from the Commission into Child Abuse.
There was also no disagreement on the need for a comprehensive Dáil debate on the report - it will take place after the 5 June elections.
Tánaiste Mary Coughlan repeated the apology from the State to the victims of child abuse, first made by then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern ten years ago, and she said the report posed issues for the State and the religious orders and for wider society.
Fine Gael's Richard Bruton said the report showed that the State ignored allegations at the time and was still failing children because the 1999 protection guidelines still are not being applied.
Labour's Eamon Gilmore called for a revisiting of the deal with the religious orders, under which their contribution to the redress scheme.
Sinn Féin's Caoimghín Ó Caoláin said child abuse was still with us and recommendations like those in the Monageer report must be implemented.
President McAleese has expressed deep sadness at the findings of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Report.
Welcoming the publication of the Report and its comprehensive nature, the President said 'It is shocking and shameful that so many children had to endure such appalling suffering and abuse in institutions whose obligation and vocation it was to provide them with safe and loving care.'
Mrs McAleese said it was an atrocious betrayal of love.
'My heart goes out to the victims of this terrible injustice,' she said, 'an injustice compounded by the fact that they had to suffer in silence for so long.'
Comment provokes anger
Some child protection groups have criticised comments last night by the new Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols.
When asked about the contents of the report from the Child Abuse Commission, he described it as distressing and disturbing but said it had taken courage for members of the clergy to face up to the facts in their past.
However, he said that the report should not overshadow all of the good that they had also done.
Archbishop Nichols said 'his heart went out to the victims of abuse and said all perpetrators should be held to account'.
Michelle Elliot, of the British child protection charity Kidscape, criticised the remarks and said he should have just made a straightforward apology.
Vincent Nichols was installed as the Archbishop of Westminster this afternoon, thereby becoming leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
Rise in calls to helplines
Organisations that counsel victims of child abuse have been dealing with an increase in the number of calls to their helplines.
The surge follows the publication yesterday afternoon of the report detailing the abuse suffered by thousands of children in residential institutions.
Counselling services said the publication of the report had opened old wounds for many, and they received calls from people who had never spoken of their abuse before.
The services had extra straff on duty to deal with the increase in calls to their helplines.
The report, of almost 3,000 pages, details how thousands of children in residential institutions run by religious congregations lived in a climate of fear.
Later this month a report on clerical sex abuse in Dublin is due out.
It is expected to highlight the torment of thousands more victims and helpline providers say they will be putting on extra staff then as well.
The HSE offers a free National Counselling Service for anyone who has suffered childhood abuse on 1800 235 234.
The related Connect service, for out of hours contact, is on 1800 235 235 from the Republic of Ireland (freephone)
00800 235 235 55 from Britain and Northern Ireland (free from landlines).
Dublin Rape Crisis Centre operates a 24-hour helpline on 1800 77 88 88.