THE Church cannot run away from its “moral responsibility” to increase its contribution to the compensation paid to the victims of institutional abuse, said Environment Minister John Gormley.
In throwing down the gauntlet to Church leaders, the Green Party leader said it was time to “get past the legal niceties” of the deal struck with Government in 2002 which capped the contribution of the religious orders to compensation for victims at €127 million.
In words which also illustrate a growing rift between the coalition partners over how to deal with the fallout from the report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, Mr Gormley said: “I’m not a legal expert, I really don’t know if the deal... can be re-opened.
“But... there is a moral responsibility on the Church authorities to live up now to their Christian values... I don’t think they should run away from this. At this stage, we need to get around the legal niceties and there is a moral responsibility.”
Mr Gormley also said he hoped to speak to Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe on the issue.
The Conference of Religious of Ireland said it was unaware of any moves by the Church to revisit the terms of the deal, but Mr Gormley said he “doesn’t think they can shirk their responsibilities” because “it [the report] is truly shocking”.
Former education minister Dr Michael Woods defended the deal he struck with the religious orders in 2002.
“The deal was the best that could be done for the state without prolonged court proceedings involving the victims, and the Government was not prepared to bring the victims into court.”
Labour’s justice spokesman Pat Rabbitte said the 2002 agreement was “a sweetheart deal” with the Church.
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