The Minister of Education has said the approach taken by religious orders to redress for people abused in religious institutions suggested the “protection of the institution had far greater authority than protection of the children”.
Richard Bruton described the €219 million contribution by the Catholic Church to the redress bill as a “far cry” from the 50 per cent share it agreed to contribute when a deal was done with the State in 2002.
Then the orders agreed to contribute €128 million as part of an estimated redress bill of €256 million.
The original figure was a gross underestimation of the actual cost which has spiralled to €1.5 billion.
On Friday afternoon a group representing some survivors of institutional abuse called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to seek Papal intervention on funds paid by religious orders towards redress costs.
The group Irish Survivors of Child Abuse said the Pope was the “only power on earth” to which the orders were likely to responsd.
It was time for politicians to “seek an immediate Papal intervention to break the impasse with the religious orders in Ireland, ” the group said.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Bruton said it remained the Government’s belief that an “equitable share out bearing in mind the responsibility would be 50:50 and we are a far cry from that”.
He acknowledged, however, the State had no legal authority to force the orders to pay a half share because of the deal done by then Minister for Education Michael Woods in 2002.
Mr Bruton said ordinary Catholics were “massively disappointed” the Church is not living up to its own commitments made in its previous deal and urged it to provide “moral leadership”.
He said the religious orders had run institutions where sexual abuse was “endemic” and the perpetrators were never reported.
He said the “protection of the institution had far greater authority than protection of the children who were extremely vulnerable and trusted to their care.”
He conceded the religious orders had volunteered to pay more since the publication of the Ryan Report in 2009, but “we still have not seen that volunteered amount honoured”.
‘Simply hasn’t materialised’
In the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report published on Thursday, it was revealed that the Christian Brothers had withdrawn an offer to transfer land worth €127 million to the State as part of its contribution towards redress for people abused in institutions.
Mr Bruton said the offer “simply hasn’t materialised” and was not acceptable to the State.
He said it would have meant that the playing fields involved would simply have been held in a joint trust by the Edmund Rice Schools’ Trust (ERST).
Mr Bruton dismissed the offer as being “in no way a contribution to the costs” of the redress board.
Mr Bruton explained that the only deal acceptable was one where the land in question was transferred to the State.
In a statement issued after the C&AG report, the Christian Brothers said the report pre-dated significant payments by the Congregation.
These include a €34 million cash pledge, €24m has been honoured with the final €10million being paid on a phased basis in 2017 linked to property sales.
The Christian Brothers said that, notwithstanding the State’s objections, “plans are also at an advance stage for the transfer of playing fields worth well over €100m to ERST, for the benefit of its 37,000 students and ultimately the State of which they are part”.
Mr Bruton acknowledged that the Christian Brothers had made further contributions, but the total payments of €219 million contributed by all the religious orders was far short of the “equitable share of the responsibility for what occurred in these cases.
“If you meet any of the people who were young people at the time, their lives have been completely turned head over heels.”