survivor support | 

Dáil hears call for church assets to be seized if orders refuse to pay for abuse

Labour Party Leader Alan Kelly TD.Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Senan Molony

Seizure of Catholic Church assets by the State is being mooted in the Dáil as a possible resort if its bodies will not pay compensation to the survivors of Mother and Baby Homes.

The religious orders of the Catholic Church must make appropriate contribution to the victims in atonement this time around, the Dáil was told by various TDs.

Former FF Minister Michael Woods agreed a €120m gesture from the Church nearly 20 years ago after earlier reports of institutional abuse — but most of the commitment was reneged upon.

“We need to ensure this time round, that those religious institutions make their contribution,” said Labour Party leader Alan Kelly.

“If they don’t make their contribution, we will pass legislation — I will draft it myself — to ensure that we can take their assets to ensure that they make that contribution.

“We cannot go through what happened in this country before, in relation to them not making their contribution this time around.”

Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman repeated to the House that he had written to the religious orders involved. pointing out the need for a financial contribution to the Government’s intended “restorative justice” scheme for survivors, asking also for an early meeting.

He said the Government intended to have a redress scheme in place by April. It would “represent the State,seeking to start the process of rebuilding a relationship with those that it has so badly let down.”

He added however: “I hope and I believe that is essential that the religious congregations, charitable organisations and Catholic and Church of Ireland primates will also begin the work of rebuilding trust, both in terms of apologies to mothers and adoptees — but also in terms of concrete measures like contribution to the restorative recognition funds and making institutional papers available.”

Tánaiste and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar said: “It is late in the day, but now is our opportunity to make restitution on behalf of the generations that preceded us.

“The means by which we do so should be guided by the men and women who survived these institutions. They should be given time to read and reflect on the report and they should inform us as to the next steps.”

But the Commission had pointed the way in its recommendations, he said, meaning a formal State apology, appropriate memorialisation, better access to health services, counselling and housing, access to records and information, including birth certificates and medical records, financial recognition, a repository to archive all documents relating to residential institutions, and assistance with advocacy.

Mr Varadkar added: “We should not forget the survivors now living overseas and in Northern Ireland, where inquiries are less advanced.

“This report teaches us that when good people believe bad things about others then terrible actions can be rationalised away.

“There are lessons here for us as a society and a State today. A meaningful response has to go beyond denouncing the horrors of the past from the safety of the present.”

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