PB July-August 2023 July-August 2023 13
The governmen ws wre of he buses
ye he “deferenil nd submissive iude
of he Deprmen of Educion owrds he
Congregions compromised is biliy o
crry ou is suory duy of inspecion nd
monioring of he schools
he Commission to Inquire into Child
Abuse, also known as the Ryan
Commission, was established in 1999.
Its goal was to investigate the extent of
physical, sexual and emotional abuse
of children in institutions such as children’s
homes, schools, foster care and hospitals run by
Catholic Orders in Ireland from 1936 onwards.
The results of this investigation were published
on 20 May 2009 in the Ryan Report.
The report detailed “significant levels of
abuse suered by children, who were placed by
the Irish State in residential institutions run by
Catholic religious orders. It found that thousands
of boys and girls were subject to chronic beatings,
sexual abuse and humiliation at the hands of
Catholic priests and nuns. The investigations
also brought to light that the government had
been aware of those abuses happening, yet the
“deferential and submissive attitude of the
Department of Education towards the
Congregations compromised its ability to carry
out its statutory duty of inspection and monitoring
of the schools.
First, Indemnity, Deal
The outcomes of the report shocked the nation;
and further controversy followed an indemnity
deal signed on 5 June 2002 between then
Minister for Education, Michael Woods, and 18
religious orders. It was decided that the
contributions of the religious institutions to the
bill for the abuse would be capped at a value of
128 million Euro, including originally 64
properties. An indemnity was given by the State
against further liability, forcing the remainder of
the bill onto the Irish State.
Woods seemed animated by the fact that the
congregations estimated their legal liability at
under €60 million if forced into court, as they
believed nine out of ten cases would failmainly
because of the statute of limitations. Woods was
determined to believe them though 20 years later
it is clear that many religious orders including
Spiritans, Jesuits and Carmelites are now
reportedly paying pupils for abuse in their
schools because they cannot sustain technical
defences, morally, and want to continue to act in
positions of authority.
Crucially too, the cost of the estimated redress
portion of the liability rose fivefold to €1.25
billion as a result of the numbers and severity of
claims. The State has long estimated the total
cost of the inquiry bill, a survivorredress scheme
and related survivor supports at €1.5 billion. This
has proved accurate and includes payments of
nearly 15,000 claims, at an average award of
€62,250; and €193 million in legal costs. The
State thinks the religious should in principle pay
50%, but the religious demur.
Church redress
deal needs rethink
The State, which has been reimbursed only
€242m of the €1.5bn it has paid out, should now
take only lands and buildings for Community
purposes; not paltry cash
By Carolin Zaniewicz
and Michael Smith
The agreement was infamously signed just
before the 2002 general election, and
consequently was not laid before the cabinet for
its approval. It then remained unpublished for
several months. Woods said that his strong
Catholic faith made him the most suitable person
to negotiate the deal. When asked to give a
statement about the exclusion of then Attorney-
General, Michael McDowell, and his ocials from
two meetings, Woods said: “The legal people
simply couldn’t have attended – it was a no-go
area for them – they had fallen out with the
Woods also tried to shift the blame for the
institutionalised child abuse onto the State and
made the untrue statement that it was the
Department of Education that “had control,
management role, organisation” and that the
State knew all the details when making the deal.
Of course exaggerating the culpability of the
State minimised the liability of the Catholic
However, the reality was that management was
exclusively a matter for the religious orders.
Journalist and campaigner Mary Raftery criticised
his remarks, pointing out that some of them
contradicted statements made by Woods himself.
While Woods said his Catholicism was an asset
that had helped to break a deadlock in
negotiations, he denied he was a member of
Opus Dei, the Knights of St. Columbanus or any
other lay Catholic organisation.
Second, Voluntary, Deal
In 2015, there was a second, this time voluntary,
deal which agreed to an additional €352 million,
given the findings of fault. However, according to
an April 2017 report from the Comptroller and
Auditor General, the voluntary sum was reduced
to €193 million (a press release from the same
body a month earlier said €226 million), after the
Minister Michael Woods
14 July-August 2023 July-August 2023 PB
Christian Brothers reduced their voluntary
commitment to surrender playing fields by €127
million. There were also other extraordinary
adjustments and re-evaluations.
The value of the indemnity and voluntary deals
was a combined €321 million (€128 million plus
193 million) coming, according to the Irish
Times, in part from a portfolio of 49 school
playing fields from the Christian Brothers valued
at €127 million and 48 Sisters of Mercy properties
valued, though not independently, at some €107
Then Education Minister Richard Bruton noted
in 2017 that if the religious orders paid up on all
the oers it would come to only 21% of the €1.5
billion paid by the State up to then.
As if all that was not scandalous enough, it
seems that nearly all of the religious
congregations have fallen short on their
commitments, especially the voluntary ones.
Payments under first Indemnity
Some 125 million of the €128 million provided
for under the 2002 Indemnity Agreement has
indeed creditably been contributed, with the
transfer of two properties remaining to be fully
completed. The cash and counselling
contributions received under the Agreement,
amounting to some €65 million, were made on a
collective basis which is why it is not possible to
identify the amounts paid by individual
Payments under Voluntary Deal
The voluntary contributions made in the
aftermath of the publication of the Ryan Report
2009 Volunry Offers Csh
Conribuions Received
Congregation Cash Contributions
Received (€)
Brothers of Charity 1,500,000
Christian Brothers 30,000,000
Daughters of Charity of
St Vincent de Paul
Daughters of the Heart
of Mary
De La Salle Brothers 1,000,000
Dominican Order 6,500,000
Oblates of Mary
Hospitaller Order of St
John of God
Presentation Brothers 4,600,000
Presentation Sisters 4,000,000
Sisters of Charity 2,000,000
Sisters of Our Lady of
Sisters of St Clare 1,000,000
Sisters of St. Louis 1,000,000
Sisters of Mercy 25,928,659
TOTAL 111,528,659
One further cash contribution is outstanding
under the 2009 oers, and will arise from the
disposal of a property by the Sisters of Mercy.
Fr Brendn Smyth, pedophile
in 2009 including cash, properties and
contributions in kind amounted, as of last year,
2022, to approximately €111.5 million of the
promised €193 million, originally €353 million.
One further cash contribution is outstanding
under the 2009 oers, and will arise from the
disposal of a property by the Sisters of Mercy.
This means that, rather than 21%, the total
haul from the Religious Congregations is closer
to 16.9%.
In January 2023 a misleading report in the Irish
Times by Carl O’ Brien was headlined,
“contributions from congregations amount to
just €480m”. But of course that was merely what
had been promised in 2002 and 2015 combined
— and then according to the Comptroller and
Auditor General reduced — not what had been
contributed which was just €237 million. It is a
big mistake on the record.
Assets for the community and
quality of life
Money contributed to the Catholic Church by the
community should now be treated as a community
resource. Much of the money went into land and
buildings which are peculiarly valuable for
community purposes in 2023. It is not clear that
the community public interest is well served by
flogging institutional lands and school sports
fields to the detriment of todays children to meet
liabilities to a previous generation.
The Ryan Report found that the abuses were
systemic in the institutions it investigated, and
that both the Church and the State were aware of
what was happening within the walls that were
meant to provide safety and shelter for children.
It is therefore right to hold the Orders and the
Church accountable, and indeed equally.
It cannot be denied that the Church does some
service for the good in today’s communities and
still oers a support network for some. However,
given the severity of its Orders crimes, often
targeting the most vulnerable in society, and their
reluctance to make the contributions they
promised, credibility has been lost in Ireland,
most likely forever. One of the under-recognised
side eects of the abjuration of responsibility by
the Church is that the demise of religion left many
people with no moral purpose of any sort.
95% of Irish national schools remain firmly under
the control of religious organisations, with 89%
run by the Catholic Church, down only two per
cent in 15 years. Fewer than 20 schools have
changed patron since Ruairí Quinn as Minister for
Education in 2011 introduced a divestment
initiative, since rebranded as schools
reconfiguration for diversity. The Government’s
2030 target will only increase multi-
denominational schools from 5% to 13% of all
school stock. Just under 50% of secondary
Up to 2022 some €237
million of the €480.6
million originally provided
for under the 2002 and
2015 Agreements has been
schools too remain under religious patronage
(also down just 2% in fifteen years).
Seven of the largest “public” hospitals in Ireland
are owned by private Catholic bodies though they
obtain more than €1 billion of State funding each
year, and more in capital grants. Catholic control
of the private healthcare sector is even tighter.
Twelve of Ireland’s 18 private hospitals are
Catholic in ethos.
Moral pressure, increased
amount, transfer land and
One clearly appropriate strategy even now would
be for the State to re-open the issue and put moral
pressure on the Church to increase the amount of
the liability. The State could then appropriate
land, buildings, hospitals and schools and,
rather than sell them to the highest bidder in the
market, put them to secular Community purposes
to advance quality of life which has filled the gap
left by religion as the agenda of our times.
And that’s not all
A separate scheme paying out €800 million to
survivors of the Mother and Baby Homes, which
involved six Orders has failed to get commitments
from the Religious in the two years since its


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