One of the Catholic church’s most high-profile campaigners today broke his week-long silence over the child abuse scandal to back calls for more victim compensation.
Fr Sean Healy, director of the Conference of Religious of Ireland and its public face for 15 years, heaped further pressure on religious orders to stump up more cash.
Several orders have already agreed to Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s call for new talks to boost a redress fund agreed in a controversial 2002 deal struck by 18 congregations.
In a statement to the Oireachtas, Cori, which represents 138 orders, revealed its dramatic u-turn by urging more cash or property be made available to survivors of the brutal institutions.
“Without doubt substantial additional resources should be made available by the congregations involved,” Fr Healy said.
Fr Healy was before the Social and Family Affairs Committee in Leinster House to give his criticisms of the last Budget.
However, under pressure from TDs and Senators, he admitted more money should be made available.
“If financial resources exist, then they should be applied to addressing this reality,” he said.
“If financial resources do not exist, then other resources that are available should be contributed.”
“All options must be on the agenda including the possibility of making a further much larger contribution to meet the bill for redress and to assist the victims.”
Fr Healy added: “We recognise that the response to the [Ryan] Report can never really compensate for all the suffering and pain endured by the people placed in the care of the religious.
“However, we believe that everything possible should be done both concretely and symbolically to make restitution for the huge wrongs that have been done to some of this nation’s most vulnerable people.”
The Christian Brothers, the worst offenders in church-run institutions, were first to bow to intense pressure and offered to consult with Government officials and put forward a new initiative in six weeks.
Nuns from the Sisters of Mercy offered to look at a possible new redress scheme along with others including, Sisters of Charity, Sisters of St Clare and Presentation Brothers.
Labour TD Roisín Shortall refused to accept the change of heart.
“Many of these people still don’t seem to get it,” she said.
“The penny still hasn’t dropped for them. The tone of their statements has changed in recent days due to the public relations advisors coming on board and the PR spin being put out there.”
The Rape Crisis Network again rejected the offer of support from religious orders, claiming it is completely unacceptable for the congregations to have a role in dealing with victims.
The new talks will attempt to carve out an extended redress system. A controversial agreement to support victims of institutional clerical abuse was struck in 2002 but it only forced the 18 orders to hand over property and cash worth only €127m.
The total redress bill is estimated at more than €1.2bn.
One suggested avenue for the new deal would be to create a trust fund for the education and welfare of victims.
The Taoiseach met Cabinet ministers for two hours last night before announcing the Government has accepted all 20 recommendations from the five-volume Ryan inquiry, including plans for a memorial inscribed with the 1999 apology delivered by then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
An assistant Garda commissioner has also been appointed to examine the potential for future prosecutions and Mr Cowen said offenders will face the full rigours of the law no matter how old the crimes are.
Children’s Minister Barry Andrews is devising a costed and timetabled action plan on Judge Sean Ryan’s 20 recommendations and will bring it to the Government before the end of July.