State Officials Were Told to Seek €190m for Church Abuse Deal

By Brian Dowling
One in Four [Ireland]
October 11, 2003

NEGOTIATORS for the State were advised to seek up to 190m from religious orders on the basis their members were primarily responsible for children abused in their care.

The Government officials who began negotiating the controversial indemnity deal in early 2001 were told it amounted to a form of retrospective insurance.

Because of this, the negotiators were told to seek the highest possible contribution from the orders.

When the deal was eventually reached, the Church's liability was settled at 128m.

Full details of the Government's opening stance in the negotiations are contained in documentation provided to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which is now investigating the deal.

One document, a memo prepared in April 2001 by the senior negotiator in the Department of Education, Tom Boland, sets out reasons why the State should adopt a firm approach with the orders.

This document notes that while the State shares the responsibility for what happened to children placed in institutions because of ineffective inspection and regulation, this could not be used to excuse the orders from their responsibility.

It points out that any abuse that was perpetrated against children was done by people employed by the owners and managers of institutions who had control over them, as they were not employees of the State.

He said that even though the congregations performed an important service for the State in taking reasonable care of the majority of children, this did not mitigate their responsibility for abuse.

The key question to be probed by the PAC is how the Government completely abandoned its April 2001 negotiating position before the end of that year, and then conceded virtually every element sought by the congregations.


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