The 18 congregations named by the Ryan Report for inflicting abuse on generations of Irish children are tonight defying the calls of the two heads the Catholic hierarchy to waive the notorious indemnity granted by the Irish government seven years ago. The frankly corrupt bargain indemnified the religious orders from all redress claims made by victims in exchange for payments and property transfers totalling 127 million. The total bill for the redress scheme is likely to be about 1.3 billion. This yawning gap must be narrowed, but the Orders seem implacable, according to the Irish Times report.
Smoothly rejecting the archbishops’ pressure they said:
“Following a meeting in Dublin this morning the congregations said Rather than re-opening the terms of the agreement reached with Government in 2002, we reiterate our commitment to working with those who suffered enormously while in our care. We must find the best and most appropriate ways of directly assisting them.
Is the extra compensation demand or fear of prosecution the bigger factor in their resistance, as they put themselves in the extraordinary position of defying the bishops ? The last shreds of cover from the hierarchy have been torn away. The traditional walls of Catholic solidarity between hierarchy, orders and government have been breached, although Eoghain Harris typically calls for complete demolition. The bishops know that the reputation of the church could reach new lows without further redress and atonement. The Archbishop of Dublin has even issued an ultimatum: Tarnished orders have a last chance at redemption or else? Theologically, this could hardly be more pointed, but here on earth, what next? Cardinal Brady and the archbishop seem to believe a better deal for victims would put things right. But surely revived efforts to prosecute should carry on regardless, and should not be used as yet another bargaining chip. In the meantime. the Cardinal is raising the stalemate with the Pope. Perhaps he’ll have better luck.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London