Church leaders want orders to pay more

THE Church showed the first signs of bowing to public pressure when senior figures said the religious orders should pay more to compensate abuse victims.

It came just days after the orders indicated there were no plans to renegotiate the controversial 2002 deal with the Government which capped their contribution to the state compensation scheme at €128 million.

But speaking yesterday, Fr Tim Bartlett – senior aide to Catholic Primate of All Ireland Cardinal Seán Brady – said the orders should pay more to the redress scheme, the final bill for which is likely to top €1.3 billion. “In my personal view, they need to pay more,” Fr Bartlett said.

The Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr Noel Treanor, said he too supported calls for the religious orders to increase their contribution and apologised once again on behalf of the Church.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said the comments represented “a very strong signal” that there was a willingness to renegotiate: “I think that the Government should respond to that, and I think the Minister for Education and Science in particular should now make direct contact with the religious orders.”

But the Taoiseach appeared to downplay the Church interventions, saying the Government had not been made aware of any shift in the orders’ position since their original statement on foot of the publication of child abuse report. In that statement, CORI – the umbrella group for religious congregations – said it was unaware of any plans by the orders to renegotiate.

Mr Cowen refused to express any personal opinion on whether the orders should pay more, even though Finance Minister Brian Lenihan told RTÉ that they should.

The Government would discuss the issue at a special cabinet meeting tomorrow and get legal advice on what was possible, Mr Cowen said. “So I don’t think really it’s helpful for me to speculate beyond saying that Government will look at all aspects of this,” he added.

Meanwhile, documents acquired under Freedom of Information show the 2002 deal was compromised by a combination of blunders, poor negotiating tactics and bad communication.

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