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Public Accounts Committee Report into The Residential Institutions Redress Scheme

The establishment of the Residential Institutions Redress Board has been a central component of the States response to the scandal of the neglect and abuse of many thousands of Irish children over some six decades. Today the Public Accounts Committee has reported on the negotiations and subsequent agreement reached between the State and Religious Congregations, that indemnified those congregations against liabilities arising from civil actions taken by those abused.

This deal is in itself a scandal; a scandal which supports the broadly held belief that successive Governments, both at political and public service level, have been unable to remain objective in their dealings with the Catholic Church. This is perhaps illustrated by the comments of the then Minister for Education Dr. Michael Woods who negotiated the deal when he said, “My religion was an asset. They knew me and they knew my work. I can't say someone else wouldn't have been able to do the same. That said, they would have known me well.”

The failure to apply reasonable expectations and standards to such dealings led to the widespread abuse of many thousands of Irish Children who were placed in these institutions buy the State. It has now led to a deal that lacks in any objectivity and that is simply unjust.

The indemnity deal represents a very poor deal for the Irish taxpayer who will now have to bear the bulk of the costs involved in paying damages and redress to victims of past abuse. What is essential is that those who have been abused as a result of the negligence of the State in the past, should not be held responsible or have to meet the cost of this most recent failure on the part of the State.

In the report Towards Redress and Recovery, which recommended the establishment of the Residential Institutions Redress Board, Mr. Justice Sean Ryan said: ‘It is unquestionably true that no amount of money can "compensate" for a body which has been battered and a mind which has been shattered; but the award of appropriate financial redress can at least provide some tangible recognition of the seriousness of the hurt and injury which has been caused to the victims of institutional child abuse.’

Mr. Justice Ryan’s report set out an approach to the question of redress that was both objective and compassionate and which reflected the political and public view that the State should properly respond to those abused as a result of its past failures.

Recent developments in the High Court suggests higher levels of damages than those set out in that report; though such levels are not often applied by the RIRB. It is vital that those women and men abused in the past, and living today with the impacts of such abuse, are not penalised because the State failed to ensure that those responsible for residential institutions were made to meet the costs of their negligence.

End

Colm O'Gorman, Director                                                         Tel: 087 758 4080

Deirdre Fitzpatrick, Advocacy Co-ordinator                         Tel: 087 206 6212

 
 

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