Quinn tells congregations to pay more in reparations

EDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn has told religious congregations they have a moral duty to pay significantly more in reparations for those abused in residential institutions.

Warning that the issue would not go away, he believed the public supported a 50/50 approach and would not regard the matter as closed until that was delivered.

“Lest there be any ambiguity, I am calling on you to significantly increase the cash offers that you have already made,” he told congregation representatives yesterday.

Mr Quinn, who described the two-hour meeting as “very positive”, wrote to 18 religious congregations earlier this month to follow up on the previous government’s call for them to meet half of the €1.3 billion bill.

The Rosminians, the Daughters of the Heart of Mary and the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity could not attend because of the timing of yesterday’s meeting.

The Sisters of Mercy did not attend the meeting because it was part of a group and pointed out they had offered €20 million to an independent fund, together with a number of properties valued at €11.5m.

“I am quite happy to have a general discussion with the Sisters of Mercy and then enter into bilateral negotiations with them,” said Mr Quinn.

He said any further cash contributions received from congregations would go towards the costs of the new National Children’s Hospital.

He said the response to individual property offers that had been made would be on a bilateral basis with his officials.

Mr Quinn pointed out that only 12 of the properties offered were of immediate benefit to the state and it was hoped to move rapidly to complete the transfer of those properties.

He said the Government wanted to explore the possibility of putting legal mechanisms in place that would provide the state with a long-term option on the school infrastructure belonging to the congregations.

Mr Quinn, who met survivors of abuse before meeting the congregations, said he wanted to dispel any notion that the proposal was driven by ideology.

“The Government’s sole aim in this is to achieve a reasonable response in terms of meeting the costs of the response to abuse,” he said.

He also wanted to make it clear that any education property transferred to state ownership would not affect current patronage arrangements.

“Such schools would remain as Catholic schools and that would not be altered without agreement. The lands, however, would be available to the state,” he said.

He said there was discussion on the degree of responsibility that each congregation might have had and it was agreed that would be established with the Redress Board.

“I am more concerned with the end result rather than the process,” he said.

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