Irish Republican News · October 3, 2003
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Blame game over growing abuse scandal
Blame game over growing abuse scandal

A scandal over a controversial backroom deal with the religious orders over compensation for child abuse victims continues to grow following efforts by the former Attorney General, Michael McDowell to distance himself and his office from the deal.

Now the Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell inflamed the controversy this week when he contradicted the assertion by the Minister of Education, Michael Woods, that he had been involved in talks at all appropriate times.

He said his officials had been excluded from meetings at which the Department of Education made dramatic changes to its position in negotiations with the religious orders. The deal means that taxpayers must foot bill of an estimated 800 million Euros in compensation for the abuse of children at religious institutions.

A controversial indemnity clause protecting the religious orders has already been invoked on at least one occasion in which the State paid a six-figure settlement to a man who was sexually abused while a resident of St. Joseph's orphanage in Kilkenny.

Mr McDowell now finds himself isolated from government colleagues -- particularly Tanaiste Mary Harney and Minister for Finance, Charlie McCreevy -- who have circled the wagons to defend the deal.

But Sinn Féin Dail leader Caoimhghin O Caolain has described Michael McDowell's efforts to distance himself from the debacle surrounding the deal as ``lacking all credibility.''

``Michael McDowell's hand-wringing exercise yesterday in relation to the deal struck between the Government and the Religious Orders on child abuse compensation lacks credibility,'' he said.

``The deal was approved by the Cabinet, including the Tanaiste, Minister McDowell's PD party leader.

``As the chief legal adviser to the Government at the time, with full access to Government and cabinet decisions, Minister McDowell has to accept his share of responsibility for the collective decisions of that Government. He cannot have it both ways.''

Earlier, he described the agreement reached between the Department of Education and the religious orders as ``one of the most extraordinary agreements ever entered into by any Government.''

Deputy O Caolain said the resignation of Justice Laffoy last month from the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse must rank as the most serious breakdown of any inquiry ever established by the Dublin parliament.

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse ``deals with matters of life and death, the health and well-being of thousands of our citizens and a system of deplorable abuse amounting to a catalogue of crimes carried out over decades,'' he said.

``The system of abuse claimed the lives of many children; we may never know exactly how many children died of neglect and ill-treatment in these institutions.

``Our first and last concern should be the survivors of abuse and, indeed, the memory of those who did not survive. There are many living survivors who are so marginalized and damaged by their abuse that they will never be able to avail of the Commission or the Redress Board.

``We know that many of them ended up homeless on the streets of London and other foreign cities. Our focus now should be to see that the debacle which has been created is sorted out, that the lessons are learned and that we move forward.''

© 2003 Irish Republican News