The Christian Brothers, one of the 18 religious congregations which signed the controversial indemnity deal limiting their responsibility for compensating victims, said yesterday they planned to hand over assets and resources not essential to house and maintain their members and the other services they still provide.
In a statement, they said the move would involve “dramatic change” and they first needed to assess their resources and consider, in conjunction with victims groups and the Government, how best they could be used in reparation for past abuses and as an investment in child education and welfare into the future.
They asked for the space and time to carry out the review, but said they expected to be in a position to provide progress reports within six weeks.
The order, which was one of the largest providers of residential institutions for children in care, also apologised for “the inadequacy of our responses” to victims over recent years.
They were heavily criticised in the Child Abuse Commission report for their “defensive” stance during the commission’s investigations. “We have extended the suffering of former residents who were either not listened to or not believed. As a congregation we want to make amends and to beg forgiveness,” the statement said.
The statement was the first individual response by a religious order to the renewed controversy over the 2002 indemnity deal with the Government, which allowed the 18 groups to escape with a €1.28m contribution towards the victims redress scheme which is expected to cost about €1.1bn.
Afterwards, Christian Brothers’ spokesman, Br Edmund Garvey, said he could not yet put a figure on the extra resources to be handed over. But he said there would be “total transparency” on the issue. He also said he expected other signatories to the deal would follow suit.
The other orders have so far stuck to a vague joint statement issued by the Conference of Religious of Ireland (CORI) on their behalf, saying they would not review the terms of the indemnity deal but would instead “find the best and most appropriate ways of directly assisting” victims.
That is understood to mean the creation of separate trusts or funds to channel money into specific projects under the orders’ control but they have so far declined to give details.
The Rape Crisis Network Ireland yesterday rejected that offer.
“This proposal is without doubt yet another act of aggressive self-protection by these institutions,” director Fiona Neary said. “Under no circumstances can any office or agency of these institutions be involved in the administration of any such fund which, if agreed to, must be handed over fully to the state for any dispersal.”
Christine Buckley, director of the Aislinn organisation for abuse survivors, also dismissed the proposal as a “stunt”. “This is a continuation of emotional abuse for survivors,” she told Newstalk Radio.
CORI has defended the stance of the signatories to the indemnity deal, despite calls by Cardinal Seán Brady and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin to look again at their contribution.
CORI director general Sr Marianne O’Connor said it was not the case that the orders were trying to escape their responsibilities.
“They are determined that they will meet all their responsibilities but they want to do that directly with the former residents.”