Call to reopen deal indemnifying religious

SURVIVORS of institutional abuse yesterday backed calls to reopen the controversial deal indemnifying religious orders from claims by victims.

The Aislinn Centre for victims of institutional abuse said revelations that an insurance company may have reimbursed the religious congregations with €6 million of the €128m in contributions they made to the State in return for the indemnity, raised serious concerns.

“The revelations that an insurance company may have reimbursed e6 million to the Conference of the Religious (CORI) on monies which may be paid under the terms of the indemnity deal raises very serious issues,” said Christine Buckley of the centre.

Ms Buckley was responding to strong concerns raised by Fianna Fáil backbencher Sean Fleming at the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday.

Mr Fleming’s comments came after the secretary general of the Department of Education, John Dennehy, told the committee his officials believed the payment had been made.

Mr Dennehy said that his officials told him in recent days that they had anecdotal evidence than an insurance company had reimbursed the religious congregations e6m of the agreed contribution for the deal.

Mr Dennehy told the committee that he had asked the religious congregations whether this was true at a meeting on Wednesday.

He said the representatives said they could not comment and would deal with the matter at another forum.

Mr Fleming said this revelation put a fundamental question mark over the entire deal, especially given the fact that the religious community had said they could not afford a larger contribution.

He said the committee did not know if the e6m was the full payment or only the first.

“I would say that if my cabinet colleagues were not aware of this insurance aspect to that deal, I would say the deal wasn’t struck on a fair basis and I would have a question mark over the whole deal.”

He said the PAC would be calling CORI to appear before the committee in the coming weeks to explain the situation.

The committee will also call the Attorney General’s office to see what impact this revelation had on the deal itself.

Ms Buckley said the indemnity deal had been flawed from the onset.

She said it was a “secret deal” signed behind closed doors, without the involvement of the then attorney general, and now Justice Minister Michael McDowell.

Ms Buckley said the religious orders had so far only paid less than a third of the €128m.

She said that since the deal was signed in May, 2002, the religious had set out to obstruct the Laffoy Commission into institutional abuse.

Ms Buckley said the indemnity deal should be scrapped and an independent audit carried out on assets of religious orders.

There was no spokesperson available from CORI.

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