Cowen to meet 18 orders on Thursday

THE showdown between Taoiseach Brian Cowen and the 18 religious orders which signed the controversial 2002 child abuse indemnity deal is to take place next Thursday — a day after he meets survivors’ groups to hear their demands for an appropriate response from both Church and state.

The date was set as the 18 met in Dublin to consider their position amid the growing clamour for them to properly make amends for the suffering their members caused to tens of thousands of children in institutions since the 1930s.

Afterwards they issued a joint statement saying they were committed to making contributions that could offer further support and assistance to former residents, but also said they had to take account of existing commitments.

“Individual congregations are charities and all of us have ongoing service, support and trustee responsibilities to a wide range of services and ministries on this island and elsewhere. Our deliberations will consider these responsibilities in the overall context of the challenges now before us — and which we are determined to meet with generosity and ongoing commitment.”

Mr Cowen’s spokesman, however, signalled a half-hearted response would not be accepted.

Referring to the passing of the all-party Dáil motion which demands “further substantial contributions” from the orders, he said: “Mr Cowen will be bringing to the meeting a mandate from the Dáil.”

Leaders of the 18 are also to be challenged to meet abuse survivors face to face at a march of solidarity next month. The silent march through Dublin city centre on Wednesday, June 10, is to culminate in the presentation of a petition to representatives of the 18 who will be asked by the organisers to turn up and accept it.

Four abuse survivors, Christine Buckley of the Aislinn support group; John Kelly of Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA); Noel Barry of Right of Place; and Michael O’Brien of Right to Peace, will lead the march from the Garden of Remembrance to Leinster House to coincide with the scheduled Dáil debate on the Ryan report.

They will carry wreaths — black to symbolise deceased victims and white to represent the living survivors — and will present copies of a public petition they plan to circulate over the coming days and place on a dedicated website from next week.

Meanwhile, children’s charities and support groups, Barnardos, CARI, Children’s Rights Alliance, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, ISPCC and One in Four, met with Children’s Minister Barry Andrews yesterday to push for the tightening up of child protection procedures and for a date for the children’s rights referendum first promised in 2007.

Mr Andrews said work continued on finding the best wording for a referendum or appropriate legislation to guarantee the protections sought. He said it would be too soon to hold a referendum on the same day as the Lisbon Treaty referendum, which is expected to take place in the autumn.

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