Irish Government to pursue religious orders for €250 million in unpaid compensation to abuse victims
The Cabinet of the Irish Government agreed this week to pursue religious orders for payment of the remaining €250 million needed to make up their half of the cost of €1.46 billion compensation promised to victims of horrific ill-treatment in orphanages, schools, borstals and other institutions run by Catholic monks and nuns. The amount was revised upwards from €1.36 billion after more victims came forward.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has been given the task of extracting the money from the orders.
The congregations of priests and nuns initially offered just €128 million in cash, property and counselling services as part of a controversial indemnity deal dating back to 2002. Only €106 million of this was ever realised.
Four of the eighteen orders named in the Ryan Commission that investigated the decades of abuse that was perpetrated have said they are willing to consider transferring more school buildings and other educational infrastructure on top of what has been offered.
Mr Quinn said: “The Government is obviously disappointed that the congregations have not agreed to a 50:50 share of the very considerable cost for redress. This decision represents the most pragmatic way to maximise the level of contributions to be made by the congregations and the management bodies so that the taxpayer does not bear an unreasonable burden of the costs.”
The four religious congregations that ran the Magdalene Laundries have announced they will not contribute to the compensation fund for victims.
The Mercy Sisters, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Sisters of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters have informed Minister for Justice Alan Shatter in recent days that they will not pay into the fund, the Irish Times reports.
However the religious orders said they were willing to cooperate fully with other recommendations made by Mr Justice John Quirke.
In his recent report Quirke recommended that the Irish government pay at least €34.5 million ($45 million) in restitution to laundry survivors.
A spokesperson for Shatter said he was ‘disappointed’ with the decision of the religious orders.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has called on the four religious orders to “reflect” on their refusal to pay into the. redress scheme.
“I cannot force them to, because the scheme was not designed on that basis,” he said.
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said it was “absolutely unacceptable.”
“The bottom line is these four religious orders, and the State, were responsible for the effective wrongful incarceration of girls and women who were forced to work for no pay within a brutal regime.
“Agreeing to merely hand over records and look after elderly residents who gave their lives to the laundries falls far short of what is expected by way of a contribution from the religious orders,” the Sinn Fein Deputy added.
Meanwhile controversial Catholic League president Bill Donohue has argued that the laundries were a myth.
“[T]here was no holocaust, and there was no gulag,” he writes in a special report titled “Myths of the Magdalene Laundries.”
“No one was murdered. No one was imprisoned, nor forced against her will to stay. There was no slave labor. Not a single woman was sexually abused by a nun. Not one. It’s all a lie.”
Donohue agreed that the working conditions in the laundries were “harsh,” and that they included “standing for long hours, constantly washing laundry in cold water, and using heavy irons for many hours.”
However he doesn’t believe that qualifies as slave labor.
“Drudgery? Yes,” he writes. “But if this is ‘torture,’ then it is safe to say that millions have suffered this fate without ever knowing they did.”
Four congregations say they are willing to assist in all other aspects of recommended package
The four religious congregations that ran the Magdalene laundries have told the Government they will not make any financial contribution to the multimillion-euro fund set up to recompense former residents.
The Mercy Sisters, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Sisters of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters have informed Minister for Justice Alan Shatter in recent days that they will not pay into the fund, which could cost up to €58 million.
However, it is understood they have said they are willing to assist fully in all other aspects of the package recommended by Mr Justice John Quirke in his recent report, including the assembly of records and looking after former residents who remain in their care.
A spokeswoman for Mr Shatter said he was “disappointed” with the decision of the four orders not to make a financial contribution.
He will brief his ministerial colleagues about the situation at the weekly Cabinet meeting this morning.
Three of the four orders contacted through a spokesman were not prepared to make any comment at this point in time.
The Government announced the scheme last month after Mr Justice Quirke had conducted an examination of the various options to compensate the women who lived in the laundries, many of whom are now elderly.
The minimum payment was €11,500 for women who spent three months or less in a laundry and the maximum approved was €100,000 for those who were residents for 10 years or more.
Groups representing the women argued that higher awards should have been made available to those who had been long-term residents.
There was no onus on any applicant to show they had suffered hardship, injury or abuse. Some 600 women are reckoned to be eligible. The scheme is expected to cost between €34.5 million and €58 million.
When the scheme was announced, Mr Shatter said taxpayers expected the four religious orders to share the burden and make a contribution to the scheme. He would not be drawn on the amount he expected them to contribute.
The scheme follows on from a full apology on behalf of the State made to the survivors by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil this year, in which he said that nobody should have been subjected to the conditions they endured.
That apology came in the wake an investigation by former senator Martin McAleese into the running and conditions within the laundries which were in operation for the best part of a century.
The report also established that the State had played a significant role in the continued operation of the laundries.
It is generally considered a truism these days to state that from the foundation of the Republic, the Catholic Church has had a large part to play in the running of the country. Legislation was passed or defeated on the whims of Catholic interests, social norms and conventions were passed down from the pulpit to the worshippers in the pews, and most shamefully, thousands of women and children were forced into what was essentially slave labour in the country’s Industrial Schools and Magdalene Laundries. However, the attitude of many towards the Church has changed dramatically over the last twenty or so years, no doubt caused by the revelations of what went on in the Industrial Schools, Magdalene Laundries, along with the revelations of a vast conspiracy to cover up allegations of physical and sexual abuse of children being carried out by members of the clergy. The Church as an institution, for all its posturing statements over the last number of years, will have to do something drastic if it is to recover from the various scandals that have hit it and continue to do so. One can clearly chart its decline in some of the latest figures regarding religious worship in Ireland.
In the 2011 census, a total of 3,861,335 people, 81.4 per cent of the population, declared themselves as Catholic, a 4.9 per cent increase since the 2006 census, when 3,681,446 people identified themselves as such. Yet, regarding this increase, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) stated, “that while the number of Catholics overall increased by 179,889, or 4.9 per cent, since 2006 much of this increase came from the non-Irish (mostly European) national community.” On the other hand, those identifying as having no religion increased by 45 per cent, up from 186,318 in 2006, to 269,811 in 2011. When broken down further in a separate CSO document, 72,914 did not state their religion, or lack of, with another 3,905 and 3,521 people stating Atheist and Agnostic respectively as their religion. As anyone remotely familiar with the religious demographics of Ireland will tell you though, the number of “true Catholics” is likely to be far smaller than the 81.4 per cent noted in the 2011 census. This can be seen in a range of areas.
For example, in 2012, Red C published the results of a poll they carried out in which they asked the public whether or not “Same sex marriage should be allowed in the Constitution”. A total of 73 per cent of respondents were in favour of an amendment to the constitution that would allow same sex marriage, which is up from 56 per cent in 2008. Regarding sex before marriage, according to the Irish Times, 6 per cent of those asked in 2004/2005 said that sex before marriage was always wrong compared to 71 per cent in 1973/1974. In another survey commissioned, also in 2012, by the Association of Catholic Priests, it was found that 35 per cent of Irish people attend Mass “at least once per week”, 36 per cent attend “a few times per year”, with 27 per cent attending Mass “less often”. In contrast, 85 per cent of people in 1980 stated that they attended Mass at least once per week. On the issue of clergy, 87 per cent stated that priests should be allowed to get married, 77 per cent stated that women should be allowed to become priests, and 72 per cent stated that “mature married men should be allowed to be ordained”. Everything mentioned here is at odds with basic Church teachings that anyone who has been raised Catholic would be well aware of.
This is why the number of “true Catholics” in the country is likely to be far lower than the 81.4 per cent who identify as Catholic. Peer pressure, family tradition, and social habit can explain why people identify as Catholic when their ideals are completely at odds with Church teachings. Despite the somewhat liberal nature, at least on the surface, of the majority of Irish society, there still exists a pressure to conform to some basic Church teachings which are now considered more tradition than anything else; christenings, confirmations, and church weddings. The Church as an institution however, is well and truly on the path of decline in Ireland if something drastic does not change in the coming years. According to a poll published in August of 2012 by WIN-Gallup International, Ireland is now rated as one of the least religious countries in the world, coming only second to Vietnam. Added to this is the very real fear that the rate of new priests being ordained in the country will not be enough to keep the Church alive, with only six being ordained in 2011.
Despite all of this, the Church and religion in general is going to remain a force in Irish politics and society for some time to come. The current struggle to take back patronage of the primary school system in Ireland from the Church demonstrates the power and obstinacy they still hold when their interests are threatened. Also, note the reaction of the various orders to the release of the McAleese Report; complete disregard and a callous indifference. In an interview that was broadcast on March 8th on RTÉ Radio 1, two nuns defended their role in the running of the Magdalene Laundries. When one of them was asked if they should apologise for the laundries she simply responded, “Apologise for what? Apologise for providing a service?” Answers like this should no longer surprise us, and neither should the anger that we feel at their utterance.
Even though the Church in Ireland is far weaker now than it was decades ago, it still holds sway. We must always remember that it has the power it has now, because of the power it had in the past.
Enda Kenny‘s Childhood Photograph
Enda Kenny awash with cash from day one and now folks you are adding to his stash
Labour TD, Eamonn Maloney, said he did not accept the finding in the report on the laundries by Martin McAleese that they did not make money from the free labour of women and girls who worked in them.
“They did make money, they made lots of money,” he said during Dáil statements on the report, adding that most commercial laundries in the 1940s and 1950s closed because of competition from the Magdalenes.
“Not only has the church as yet to apologise for their role in operating these prisons, they do also have a role — because they made money — in compensating people,” he said.
The Dublin South West TD added that politicians must not be afraid to “stand up and say this”.
The Government has so far refused to say what contribution, if any, it will seek from the orders.
Last Friday, Ms Lynch said the question of what would be considered a fair contribution was “debatable” and she did not want to go into it at this early stage.
“The mistake that was made with the industrial schools was that the deal was done in advance of knowing what the final cost would be,” she said.
“That was a major flaw in that process. And we don’t intend to make those same mistakes again.”
Fine Gael TD Joe O’Reilly there was “no avoiding the fact that the religious orders will have to make a contribution to the final fund”.
During last night’s Dáil statements, he said that in many cases, the orders involved have to pay for nursing home fees and the expensive care of their elderly demographic, and that should be taken into account.
“But where there are assets and where there is a capacity to pay, it would be cathartic and it would be part of a recovery process for the religious orders — and a very practical identification with the survivors if they made a financial contribution,” said Mr O’Reilly.
The Cavan-Monaghan TD said it was “not sufficient that they make no input into it”.
The four congregations which were referred to in the McAleese report on the laundries are the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity; the Sisters of Charity, which had assets of €33m in 2009; the Sisters of Mercy, which has a portfolio of assets of €1.8bn; and the Good Shepherd Sisters which, in 2009, had €16.8m worth of financial assets.
via Clerical Whispers.
via Clerical Whispers.