What is truth?

Posts tagged ‘Róisín Shortall’

“Motley Crew Collection” (Roisin Shortall)

                                                    

I was last night looking at a program  on RTE 1 ,the panel was made up of various political parties, I was immediately struck of the aggressive language coming from Labor and Fine Gael towards the Independents putting themselves forward for General Election. The description from Roisin Shortall Td of “Rag bag” Independents and “Motley Crew Collection” of Independents is simply outrageous and insulting for all those citizens that have and will vote for Independents.

Her statement that TD’s of the established political parties “Did their time serving in the dail” sounded like that these (Rag Bag’s were inviting themselves to a party and nobody else wanted them there )“As one of these Rag Bags Independents or one of the Motley Crew Collection I do not want to serve my time in the Dail and grow old and corrupt and collect an enormous pension at the end of a career of milking the taxpayers of this country. No, I want to bring about the changes stopping this abuse from the some of the very TD’s who “Did their time serving in the dail

Independents have to go through enormous personal costs and every penny is coming from their own pockets, not one cent comes from the taxpayers of this country .People who stand as independents have to be some of the most patriotic citizens of this country and Mrs.Shortall’s outburst describing them as Rag Bags is a sheer display of arrogance. It is because of this arrogance and aloofness the country political masters have lost touch with ordinary people .We desperately needs independent patriots to stand against these political dinosaurs and bring Irish politics into the modern age of total accountability .

The Dail is the people’s parliament and not the private club house for the political elite of all the established political parties.

Thomas Clarke

I’m still worth it!

 

Opposition parties demanded a full apology from the Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue tonight claiming his explanation of lavish expenses claims was insufficient.

Mr O’Donoghue broke his silence on controversy over chauffeur-driven limousines, the Cheltenham festival and first-class travel, claiming he accepted some of the bills appeared high.

But in his letter to Dáil colleagues, the Fianna Fáil TD said he expected to be treated with the same privilege as Government ministers at home and a visiting dignitary when abroad.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny dismissed the former Arts, Sports and Tourism Minister’s three-page explanation.

“There needs to be a fulsome statement outlining the situation regarding the expenses,” he said.

“It (the letter) was insufficient. A full explanation is required, and an apology.”

Labour’s Róisín Shortall added to the criticisms accusing Mr O’Donoghue of claiming expenses which should not have been run up.

“An honest acknowledgement that some of the expenditure was simply unjustified, an unqualified expression of regret and a forthright apology to the Irish people would have been helpful.”

The Ceann Comhairle has refused to speak publicly on the scandal after he ran up hundreds of thousands on flights, courtesy cars and functions abroad with his wife during his time as a minister.

In his letter he claimed he would not have been told how much ministerial luxuries would cost.

Mr O’Donoghue stopped short of a full and frank apology stating: “I wish to acknowledge that some of the costs incurred appear high.

“I sincerely regret, in so far as I am concerned, that some of these high costs occurred.”

He wrote that he had taken a voluntary 10% pay cut but did not want to draw attention to it – the second time the wage reduction has been put on the public record.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen said new arrangements were now in place to prevent excessive spending.

Mr O’Donoghue’s letter claims he has followed the tradition of the Ceann Comhairle’s office and carefully avoided becoming involved in controversy since taking the role.

The position earns him €125,000 on top of the basic TD salary of more than €100,000.

“It simply would not be proper, however tempting, for me, whether inside the House or outside the house, to become involved in public debate concerning my previous roles as minister,” Mr O’Donoghue wrote.

“Nor would it be proper for me to become involved in matters of public controversy concerning Departments for which, as minister, I have had previous accountability to Dáil Eireann.”

He added: “I want to assure you that I have at all times acted with good faith and with probity.”

Mr O’Donoghue attempted to detach himself from the controversy by first claiming the bills were paid for under statutory rules and later saying expenses were arranged and audited by others.

Mr O’Donoghue said he was at the forefront of attempts to reform Dail spending.

Article taken from link:

photo from machholz


http://breakingnews.iol.ie/news/ireland/opposition-expenses-explanation-falls-short-426330.html

Dail debate 9 Last

Batt O’Keeffe
(Minister, Department of Education and Science; Cork North West, Fianna Fail)

Deputy Brian Hayes suggested that my Department’s failure to co-operate with the commission in its early stages somehow contributed to the perceived delays in the commission publishing its report.

I will acknowledge that prior to 2003 some difficulties were encountered in my Department’s dealings with the Commission—–

Aengus Ó Snodaigh
(Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

Some?

Batt O’Keeffe
(Minister, Department of Education and Science; Cork North West, Fianna Fail)

—–especially in regard to complying with a small number of discovery directions. However, in this regard, the commission’s third interim report of December 2003 acknowledges some of the difficulties that were caused or contributed to by the committee, in that, for example, there was not sufficient clarity about what was sought or insufficient time was being allowed for compliance.

Furthermore, I would point out that in December 2003, in order to ensure that criticism of the Department’s responses to the commission was fully explored, the then Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Noel Dempsey, appointed an eminent QC and former chairperson of the Bar Council of England and Wales to conduct a review of the Department’s interaction with the commission. That report reached the conclusion that the difficulties over discovery were not due to obstruction or concealment but rather to poor historic record storage systems and misunderstandings about what was required. In all cases, my Department fully complied with the discovery directions. The issue of including day schools in the redress scheme was also raised.

I want to address the rationale behind the setting up of the redress scheme which was that children in institutions were separated from their parents and dragged from their homes while other family members watched on. Others spent years in these institutions, their only crime being that they had a single parent or a parent who could not feed them or look after them. They woke up in institutions, spent their full day in institutions and went to bed at night in the institutions. They had nobody to whom to talk or tell their stories nor did they have the benefit of the care and protection which children living with their families usually enjoy. In the case of abuse which occurs in day national schools, my Department has been found not liable for such abuse by the Supreme Court judgment. This is not to say that the abuse suffered by persons in this setting is in any way less serious or abhorrent.

Róisín Shortall
(Dublin North West, Labour)

However, the Minister is washing his hands of it.

Batt O’Keeffe
(Minister, Department of Education and Science; Cork North West, Fianna Fail)

It simply means that the plaintiff is suing the wrong party in taking an action for damages against the State.

Michael D Higgins
(Galway West, Labour)

The Minister should put that on a memorial.

Batt O’Keeffe
(Minister, Department of Education and Science; Cork North West, Fianna Fail)

Of course, for the State to accept liability in all such cases where it does not have a legal liability would be irresponsible in light of its duty to the taxpayer. A further consequence would be to distract from where that liability might lie. There have been some cases where my Department was made aware of allegations of abuse but did not take appropriate action. As a result, my Department accepted partial liability in those cases even though the abuse occurred in ordinary national schools.

I again reiterate the Government’s commitment to ensuring that the recommendations of the report are implemented in full and the needs of survivors are fully considered. I again reiterate the State’s apology. I commend the work of Mr. Justice Ryan, Ms Justice Laffoy before him and the members of the commission.

I hope that the full support of the House for this motion will be another acknowledgement of the acceptance by the people of the shameful manner in which these children were treated and that it demonstrates our united determination and commitment to ensuring that such appalling events will never be repeated.

dail debate 8

Batt O’Keeffe
(Minister, Department of Education and Science; Cork North West, Fianna Fail)

As Minister for Education and Science, I want to apologise unreservedly for the way the Department of Education and Science failed children in residential institutions.

Róisín Shortall
(Dublin North West, Labour)

What will you do about it? That is the question. It is not the apology; it is what the Minister will do about it now.

Brendan Howlin
(Wexford, Labour)

Please allow the Minister to make his contribution.

Batt O’Keeffe
(Minister, Department of Education and Science; Cork North West, Fianna Fail)

The report clearly shows how the Department failed to protect these children for whom it had a duty of care. Had the Department done its job properly, thousands of children would not have suffered the way they did. We failed them. We are all united in our abhorrence at the findings of this report and the sheer scale of the abuse which children experienced in these institutions over a long period of time. The then Taoiseach apologised in 1999. My Secretary General acknowledged the Department’s failures at the commission’s public hearings in 2006. I unreservedly reiterate that apology today.

I can only imagine the frustration of survivors up to this point when they tried to speak out and their claims were rejected or denied. This report unequivocally supports the stories told by those who were abused and highlights the pain, suffering and abuse to which they were subjected for most of their young lives. For many, the continuing pain has remained with them and blighted their lives to this day. The report lays bare the reality of life in these institutions and the neglect, fear, and abuse experienced daily in an environment which, in the main, did not even provide them with their most basic needs.

I commend all victims on their bravery in coming forward to the commission and divulging the most painful and traumatic events of their lives.

Róisín Shortall
(Dublin North West, Labour)

For goodness sake spare us this. What are you going to do about it?

Batt O’Keeffe
(Minister, Department of Education and Science; Cork North West, Fianna Fail)

I commend them on their persistence in ensuring the story was told, heard and, most importantly for the victims, that it was believed. Without them, this report would not have been possible nor could we have ever hoped to learn from the mistakes of the past. Their bravery and determination is a lasting tribute to those former residents who are no longer with us and whom we should remember at this time.

Today, above all other days, we must be humbled and contrite for the wrongs that have been inflicted on innocent lives. The American author, James Baldwin, once said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed but nothing can be changed unless it is faced”. We have now faced the reality that thousands of young people lived in a regime that was harsh, severe and abusive. There is no denying it—–

Joan Burton
(Dublin West, Labour)

It was savage.

Batt O’Keeffe
(Minister, Department of Education and Science; Cork North West, Fianna Fail)

—–but now, as a society, we will be judged on how we respond to this reality, learn from the mistakes of the past and ensure our children are protected and cared for.

Michael D Higgins
(Galway West, Labour)

And how we can reform the Department that covered it up.

Batt O’Keeffe
(Minister, Department of Education and Science; Cork North West, Fianna Fail)

The Taoiseach, together with myself and other Ministers, met representatives of the survivors of abuse on 3 June during which the Taoiseach reiterated the Government’s full acceptance of all the recommendations in the commission’s report and that it is committed to their implementation. The groups were also advised that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs will develop an implementation plan to be brought to Government by the end of next month.

In respect of my own Department, the erection of a memorial dedicated to all survivors, living and dead, has been already the subject of discussions with survivor groups and of consultation with the Office of Public Works.

Róisín Shortall
(Dublin North West, Labour)

The Minister still does not get it, just like the religious orders.

Batt O’Keeffe
(Minister, Department of Education and Science; Cork North West, Fianna Fail)

It is proposed to hold further discussions with the survivor groups to advance the implementation of this recommendation.

The report also made recommendations relating to education, counselling and family tracing services. Funding for education grants is available from the Education Finance Board which is funded by €12.7 million of the religious orders’ cash contribution. At the end of last year, some €7.35 million of this remained to be spent on education for former survivors and their families.

Funding has been provided to some survivor groups primarily for information and referral during the commission and redress processes.

Róisín Shortall
(Dublin North West, Labour)

Put a price tag on that too.

Batt O’Keeffe
(Minister, Department of Education and Science; Cork North West, Fianna Fail)

Last year, the Department provided funding to these groups as follows: Irish groups – €143,239 and UK groups – €428,312.

Róisín Shortall
(Dublin North West, Labour)

That is an insult to the people in the Gallery.

Batt O’Keeffe
(Minister, Department of Education and Science; Cork North West, Fianna Fail)

They will continue to be funded by my Department in the current year. Barnardos is being funded to provide a family tracing service for former residents, which is highly valued by them.

My Department will continue to consult with the survivor groups on the recommendations relating to education, counselling and family tracing services.

At the meeting on 3 June, the survivor groups paid tribute to the residential institutions redress unit of my Department. That unit will continue to be available to them as a point of contact as we pursue implementation of the report’s recommendations.

Joan Burton
(Dublin West, Labour)

Many people do not have trust in that.

Batt O’Keeffe
(Minister, Department of Education and Science; Cork North West, Fianna Fail)

Deputies have raised the issue of the commission’s records. While, under the Act, decisions on the commission’s records are a matter for the commission, the commission has assured my Department that no action will be taken on these documents for some time. I assure the House that the Government supports the desirability of preserving, in so far as possible, these records for posterity.

A range of issues were raised by the survivor groups including contributions by the congregations, redress, future needs of the former residents, criminal records, counselling, therapy services and a memorial. Some of the issues raised by the survivor groups have been also raised—–

Róisín Shortall
(Dublin North West, Labour)

What about responsibility?

Batt O’Keeffe
(Minister, Department of Education and Science; Cork North West, Fianna Fail)

—–by Deputies in the course of this debate. These and all of the other issues raised by them will now be given further consideration.

I do not want to move from focusing on the needs of the survivors. However, a number of comments were made by Deputies relating to my own Department with which I must deal.

Michael D Higgins
(Galway West, Labour)

That is right.

Róisín Shortall
(Dublin North West, Labour)

Good.

Batt O’Keeffe
(Minister, Department of Education and Science; Cork North West, Fianna Fail)

In a recent “Questions & Answers” programme on RTE, Michael O’Brien, a former resident, implored all of us to stop making a political football of this issue. I ask the same of Deputy Ruarí Quinn. Deputy Quinn has every right to engage in robust debate about current policies and structures and changes he considers are desirable. I would welcome such a debate. Deputy Quinn also has every right to express his views in this House on my performance as Minister or that of my Department. Deputy Quinn is right to point to areas where improvement is needed. I and my Department would agree with him in regard to some of that.

I accept it is a problem that the information sought by the Deputy is not readily available because of information technology and database inadequacies. I have already asked my Department to go through individual school files and compile the ownership information for all schools into an accessible format for presentation. However, I do not accept that Deputy Quinn has the right to use the privilege of this House to impugn the personal integrity and motivations of civil servants working in my Department or any other Department. His language and personal allegations about those civil servants would be risible if it were not for the serious context in which they were made.

Michael D Higgins
(Galway West, Labour)

But in the past senior civil servants hid this abuse. The Minister knows that.

Batt O’Keeffe
(Minister, Department of Education and Science; Cork North West, Fianna Fail)

I want to put on the record of the House that in my year as Minister—–

Michael D Higgins
(Galway West, Labour)

A former Secretary in the Department of Education said everything was wonderful in Daingean.

Brendan Howlin
(Wexford, Labour)

Deputy, allow the Minister make his contribution.

Batt O’Keeffe
(Minister, Department of Education and Science; Cork North West, Fianna Fail)

dealing with my Department’s civil servants, I have always found them to be motivated by a strong desire to make the best choice in the public interest.

Róisín Shortall
(Dublin North West, Labour)

What does the Minister intend to do about the problem in his Department? Will he ask any questions?

Batt O’Keeffe
(Minister, Department of Education and Science; Cork North West, Fianna Fail

Far from the laziness and destructiveness Deputy Quinn alleges, I have found a huge commitment to their work and willingness to go the extra mile but I will not dwell on that matter today.

The focus of this all-party debate is on the serious issues covered in the Ryan report—–

Michael D Higgins
(Galway West, Labour)

That is right.

Batt O’Keeffe
(Minister, Department of Education and Science; Cork North West, Fianna Fail)

—–and our responsibilities to those former residents whom we failed in their childhood.

Róisín Shortall
(Dublin North West, Labour)

What about the Minister’s responsibility and the role of his Department?

Brendan Howlin
(Wexford, Labour)

Please Deputies, allow the Minister to make his contribution.

Batt O’Keeffe
(Minister, Department of Education and Science; Cork North West, Fianna Fail)

However, I could not let such an unprecedented attack on the personal integrity of my staff lie unchallenged on the record of this House.

Michael D Higgins
(Galway West, Labour)

And nothing about the past.

Dail debate 7

Mary Harney
(Minister, Department of Health and Children; Dublin Mid West, Progressive Democrats)

I wish to share my time with Deputy Mary White.

Brendan Howlin
(Wexford, Labour)

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mary Harney
(Minister, Department of Health and Children; Dublin Mid West, Progressive Democrats)

The publication of the report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, under Mr. Justice Seán Ryan, is the most important social event in Ireland in recent decades. It is a truly profound moment in the life of the nation. It confronts us with an awful truth, the fact that we should be ashamed of our past when it comes to our treatment of children. It is tempting to believe that our shame relates to events long ago, but the sad and disturbing truth is that the hurt inflicted on the survivors of abuse has continued to this day. In the ten long years since the then Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, apologised for the abuse of the past, we have, until now, collectively failed to fully appreciate the injustices of the past. Nothing less than a full appreciation must now be displayed by society and must inform the actions of the State.

The Ryan report forces us to confront the true scale of the savage inhumanity that has devastated so many young lives, and the awful inertia and neglect of people in authority that allowed the abuse to continue when it should have been rooted out. For too many decades we chose to turn away from this hidden misery. But now we have a solemn duty to face it, to digest its significance and to act in a manner that provides justice to the survivors and protection against such abuse ever happening in the future. While there have been many scandals, and reports on scandals, on child abuse and other evils – some yet to come – this time, it is different, and it will be different. This report is our truth commission.

We owe a great debt to Mr. Justice Ryan and the many people who have served on the commission. Without flinching, the report covers the worst of human depravity and abuse of children. The terrible truth that this report unveils, in the most thorough, judicious, and razor-sharp analysis, calls for the deepest, sustained reflection, so that all that can be learned from it will be learned. It raises profound issues of justice, redress, crime and punishment, the ethos underlying the laws we enact, questions of good and bad authority, the hideous corruption of the values and ideals of founders of religious orders, and the failures and neglect of the State, and agents of the State, purporting to act in the name of the people. In recounting the testimony of the abused children, it finally gives voice to the truth of their suffering. In so doing, it recognises the injustice and hurt of this truth having been suppressed in their childhood, and for most of their lives.

In all the darkness, there are points of light, that final recognition of the truth for those who were abused, the clarity and balance shown in the report, the acknowledgement of good done by some people, even where abuse was institutionalised and systemic, the understanding it helps us reach of what did go on, and of the need for vigilance to prevent such abuse ever occurring again.

Brendan Howlin
(Wexford, Labour)

I know people are very deeply involved in this debate but I ask that Members could be heard without any interruption from the Gallery. I understand how deeply people feel about this matter but it is important that what is being said is heard.

1:00 am

Mary Harney
(Minister, Department of Health and Children; Dublin Mid West, Progressive Democrats

Most importantly, this report is compelling because it puts the abused children of decades past, and the vulnerable children of today, at the very centre of its concerns and compels our entire society to do the same. It is fundamentally about their story and their welfare, and it demands that we, as individuals and particularly as public representatives in Dáil Éireann, ask ourselves the hard questions and deliver a response that fully meets the challenges.

For so many victims of abuse set out in this report, there has been and can be no real balancing of the scales for lives lost, psychological trauma and childhoods starved of human warmth, love and trust. The survivors live in Ireland, England and right around the world. I hope that wherever they live, and in whatever circumstances, whatever their status, health or well-being, they hear the message the Irish people and this House is sending today – you are not forgotten and we are determined to do justice, to repair damage as far it can be repaired, and to honour your lives and your human dignity.

We are determined to ensure that survivors of abuse are provided with full access to the entire range of health and social services they need. Many have ongoing and particular needs in the areas of housing, health care, education, counselling and support services, areas which cut across a number of public service providers. Our job is to align our services so that we are proactive across public services in meeting their needs. Nor will we forget those who live outside the jurisdiction whom we can also help with better services.

We are also determined as a House and as a Government, as the Taoiseach has said, to ensure Ireland reaches the highest standards of child protection. I am confident the Minister of State, Deputy Barry Andrews, will present the Government with a comprehensive set of practical measures needed to implement fully the recommendations of the report. That work is already well underway. The Minister of State, Deputy Andrews, set out yesterday some of the challenges that this will pose for him and for all of us involved in the design and implementation of public services. The challenges presented to us are nothing to the suffering of the survivors. Our challenge is to make sure we put the survivors first in designing the public services they now require.

Redress and compensation is one small part of justice, and an entirely appropriate part. However, our response as a society also demands a greater financial contribution from the religious orders involved to right the wrongs of the past and to take all possible measures to prevent abuse now and in the future. The Government is reflecting the interest of our society in requiring far more from the religious orders, and the Government and the House expect they will meet their responsibilities, which are grave indeed.

We are all thinking again about the agreement on redress in 2002 and the capping of the legal liability of the orders involved. They might well reflect that, while it sought to limit the damage to their finances, it has had the effect of causing immeasurably more damage to their reputations. It is a lesson for all organisations and institutions that catastrophic reputational damage is caused by allowing injustice to persist and by failing to act, and that damage is only exacerbated by legal or financial moves to deny or evade full responsibility. Reputations are much more difficult to repair than balance sheets. Lest there be any doubt, damaged lives are the hardest thing of all to repair.

Criminal prosecution and punishment is another necessary part of justice and redress. Our response as a society to evil and injustice includes criminal sanction; that is what our laws provide. There cannot be any reason the due process of criminal law should not take place in regard to those who have a very serious case to answer. There is every good reason it should.

In 1999, the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, rightly and unreservedly apologised on behalf of the State for the failures over decades to protect children. Often, when we mention “the State” in these matters, it can sound like a cold, legal construct, an entity we all own but that somehow is above, beyond and detached from us as individuals. The State is all of us, and in a particular way those of us who are now, or were in the past, Members of the Oireachtas. In this debate we can recount all the horrors and the appalling incidents of abuse, reading out parts of the Ryan report. However, the public, and more importantly, the abused, can rightly ask of those of us speaking today, “What about you? Your institutions? Your role?” Let us address this. The failure of the State included our failure. Let us acknowledge that fully. The elected representatives of the people, ourselves, even in this generation, and our predecessors, did not adequately scrutinise, question and call to account the system that caused this abuse of children. The institutions of the State – the Oireachtas, this House and Departments – all failed.

For example, year after year, Estimates for the Department of Education were proposed, analysed, discussed and passed. That process provided an opportunity for a closer scrutiny of the workings of the industrial schools, in particular of the financial incentives underlying them. How often did we and our predecessors raise the question of abuse or the system of industrial schools? Clearly, nowhere near enough.

The report comments tersely on what happened in the 44 years between the Cussen commission’s report into reformatories and industrial schools in 1936 and the Kennedy report in 1970. It states:

The Cussen Report endorsed the system contingent upon the implementation of its 51 principal conclusions and recommendations, but the implementation of these recommendations by the Department of Education was inconsistent and intermittent. Consequently, the system continued largely unchanged until the late 1960s. By the time the Kennedy Report was published in 1970, the system had greatly declined and the report itself was more of an obituary than a death sentence. The events that led to the ending of the system had little to do with policy decisions by the Department of Education, and that also is part of the story.

One of the many lessons in this is surely that we should question more and better, not less or superficially. Whether as Ministers or TDs, we must be constantly vigilant to allow the possibility that there can be another truth other than the traditional line or that which supports the status quo. By this, I mean responsible, considered, deep and balanced questioning. As we know from some parliamentary inquiries, it is only a high standard of questioning and a high standard of ministerial and administrative response and accountability that will ensure scrutiny actually works to prevent failures, including what are often called systemic failures. A lesson of this report is also that any institution, be it religious, political, administrative or professional, can – indeed, will – end up being self-serving and abusive of power if it does not question itself and is left without effective external accountability.

What we mean by “the State” is also all those who run and administer the institutions and arms of the State. Many people advise and act in the name of the State and, ultimately, there is political control. However, there is no small measure of administrative responsibility either. In fairness, the report records the statement of the Secretary General of the Department of Education accepting its failures. However, as important as recognition, acceptance and apology is to learn and fully apply the lessons as quickly as possible.

High standards of public sector management must mean the public service carries within itself the ability to question its own methods and processes so that failures and deficiencies are addressed, not suppressed. The challenge of this report is not just about the past, but about the ability of an administrative system now and in future to question and improve itself constantly. Otherwise, self-preservation, the status quo and even illegality and deep injustices can become institutionalised. The price of not doing so may be hidden in the short term but the long-term consequences can be appalling for individuals.

There often can be unsettling and deeply challenging new facts, or new legal or financial advice, presented to Ministers and Departments. We must listen and apply considered judgment to what we hear. As Ministers, we must never abandon our critical faculties. In this case, the damage to children and the liability of the State simply accumulated over decades. It never went away because not enough people listened, heard and acted. Had we acted earlier, we would have saved both. So, it is a lesson for public administration, Government, Ministers and the Oireachtas to deal with issues when they arise, no matter how awkward, difficult or revealing they are. It is about the courage to speak the truth, as well as the courage to listen and to act. As the report states, “…openness would probably have reduced the level of abuse: sunshine is the best disinfectant”.

The report also offers lessons on what it calls “agency capture”, that is, organisations funded by the State which dictated terms even though one would imagine that he who pays the piper calls the tune. These agencies argued that they were unable to meet standards because they were not receiving sufficient funds. They claimed, for example, they did not have the money to provide meat to children. This turned into a form of blackmail against the State and a means of excusing injustice, wrongdoing and the failure to meet standards. Echoes of these arguments can be heard today. To avoid this danger, a clear and accountable governance system is needed for agencies and organisations which receive substantial State funding so that resource limitations are not used as excuses for bad practice or management.

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse was a truth commission for Ireland. It revealed a truth that is both disturbing and shameful but it is infinitely better that the truth be told and the lessons learned for the sake of the abused and all our children, particularly vulnerable ones. If we could give to the born the level of care and concern rightly shown in some quarters to the unborn, we would serve this country better.

As a pupil of the convent in Goldenbridge, I was treated very well and had a good experience. However, I went home to my parents every evening. Many of my teachers were the same people who inflicted such awful pain and suffering on those held in their care. It is difficult to understand how these teachers could treat two students so differently simply because one went home every evening.

Mary White
(Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)

Today’s debate addresses a truly horrific chapter in our country’s history and the lessons we must learn as a nation, a country and a human race. The Ryan report documents systemic abuse in industrial schools, reformatory schools and other institutions spanning a period of decades. It chronicles shocking physical and emotional abuse, a climate of fear in the institutions concerned, the endemic sexual abuse of boys by abusers who were protected by their congregations and a catalogue of crimes against the most vulnerable of children, including the emotional abuse that disadvantaged, neglected and abandoned children suffered at the hands of staff in these institutions.

Children with learning and other impairments were even more powerless in the presence of those in authority. The report states:

Children with intellectual, physical and sensory impairments and children who had no known family contact were especially vulnerable in institutional settings. They described being powerless against adults who abused them, especially when those adults were in positions of authority and trust. Impaired mobility and communication deficits made it impossible to inform others of their abuse or to resist it. Children who were unable to hear, see, speak, move or adequately express themselves were at a complete disadvantage in environments that did not recognise or facilitate their right to be heard.

Neglect and emotional abuse were widespread but the Department of Education took a deferential and submissive attitude to the religious orders and failed in its duty to inspect or regulate them. There was a lack of response to the complaints of those who were abused from either the congregational authorities or the Department. Complainants were not heeded, secular authorities were not alerted to cases of abuse by members of the religious orders and the Department generally dismissed or ignored their complaints.

Two industrial schools were located in my constituency of Carlow-Kilkenny, St. Patrick’s and St. Joseph’s. The report states in regard to St. Patrick’s that men who were employed in the school appeared to have ready access to small boys and that awareness was lacking about the risks posed by this. In St. Joseph’s, two periods of serious sexual abuse were not adequately addressed. In the first period, the perpetrator was not reported to the Garda even though the Department confirmed the cases and no comfort was offered to the girls who were abused. In the second period, the Sisters of Charity were found to have failed to deal decisively with two abusers of boys. Both men went on to abuse again after leaving St. Joseph’s.

I cannot help contrasting my own happy childhood in County Wicklow, sitting on haystacks beside my brothers and sister or doing my homework at the kitchen table in the expectation of cocoa and Marietta biscuits with the butter oozing out the little holes, with the horrendous beatings, floggings, sexual abuse, lack of love and lives full of terror experienced by the children in these institutions. The contrast is grotesque but this happened at the hands of the so-called guardians and pillars of the church who wore the soutane and the biretta and wielded the cane to abuse their positions of power and destroy lives.

However, we must recognise the parallel failures of the State during the period in question. The 1936 Cussen report, which recommended integration into the community of those in industrial schools, was not implemented until the 1960s. The Ryan report states that the industrial training afforded served the needs of the institutions rather than the children. This failing was only one of many.

The Ryan report’s recommendations on child care policy and methods of evaluating the success or failure of services are all the more important when we consider that the Government is in the process of reforming early child care policy and provision. The findings of this report confront us with an enormous challenge in terms of examining the relationship between church and State both then and now. The report’s final recommendation on the implementation of national guidelines for the protection and welfare of children is crucial. While I welcome the Government’s commitment in this regard, it must also engage the Catholic church on its currently inadequate child protection guidelines. Guidelines which offer no input from the victims of abuse cannot be deemed adequate. Finally, I suggest that a day of remembrance be called by the Government. This would be an important occasion for us to remember what happened and to listen without interrupting and learn from those who for so many years never had a voice.

Brendan Howlin
(Wexford, Labour)

This is a very important debate. I ask people in the Gallery to allow Members to make their contributions in this national Parliament on this most important issue without applause.

Róisín Shortall
(Dublin North West, Labour)

I am glad to have several minutes to make a short contribution on this motion. Unfortunately, the limited amount of time allocated to the debate means that many Members who would have liked to make contributions do not have opportunities to do so.

I hope the publication of the Ryan report heralds an honest and sincere response from the State and the religious congregations which were responsible for the gross depravity and savagery inflicted by many of their members on the most vulnerable in our society. I am not sure, however, whether the current debate on this all-party motion is the correct way to deal with the issue. A lot of breast beating is going on, accompanied by talk that I find difficult to stomach. We should have dealt with the issue differently and I would have liked more honesty in the debate.

Regrettably, we continue to await a full acceptance of responsibility on the part of the State. The rewriting of history which Deputy Woods engaged in this morning is not helpful. Time does not allow me to provide the details but I utterly refute many of the Deputy’s assertions. The agreement reached with the 18 congregations was grubby in the extreme. It entailed the State stepping in and taking on legal responsibility for clerical abuse not just in the distant past but up to 5 June 2002. Essentially, it was a cheap insurance policy for the perpetrators of criminal abuse and the fact the State was party to that is a disgrace. It flew in the face of modern day thinking on the need for those perpetrators to take responsibility for their actions and it is not until this requirement is satisfied that people can begin to recover. How can the survivors of abuse ever start to move on if the perpetrators of abuse continue to refuse to take responsibility for their actions?

The State, in reaching this deal with the 18 congregations, facilitated that avoidance of responsibility on the part of the congregations. The religious fought tooth and nail to limit their financial liability for this open-ended indemnity provided by the State. They succeeded in including in the deal many properties that had nothing whatsoever to do with redress. They put a €10 million price tag on their counselling services and that is a measure of the hard-nosed approach they took to this. This was not about atonement or seeking forgiveness or facing up to responsibility; this was about striking the toughest bargain they possible could. They had the State and the then Minister, Deputy Michael Woods, over a barrel and God did they strike a tough deal.

Seven years after that deal in the middle of 2009 they have yet to honour it. Incredibly, many of the properties have not yet been transferred and as of December last year less than 50% of those properties had been transferred. I am glad to say the Committee of Public Accounts continues to monitor this issue and we are seeking six-monthly reports from the Department of Education and Science to ensure the congregations live up to their responsibility and to ensure the Department ensures they live up to their responsibility. We will continue to do so until each and every one of those properties is fully transferred. Worst of all, the congregations are still more concerned with saving their own faces than in honest atonement. As recently as two weeks ago, some of those orders were still apologising “if” they caused hurt; in spite of all the money they spend on public relations and all of the spin in which they are engaged, they are still talking about apologising “if” they caused hurt. This country has serious questions to ask itself on the morality and legal liability of continuing to allow our education services and large parts of our health services to be controlled by organisations which have been proven to be systematically and systemically abusive, depraved, criminally violent and which have not yet faced up to that culpability.

We know that down through the years at political and senior official level in some Departments too many people were prepared to turn a blind eye. Worse than that, some senior officials facilitated and were complicit in the abuse. This was not just in the distant past; up to very recent years certain officials with responsibility in this area were moved around by more senior and political figures in those Departments, much in the same way as abusing priests and other religious were moved around by their superiors. Will the Taoiseach undertake to carry out an investigation into the manner in which senior officials in the Department of Education and Science in particular, but also within the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, handled complaints about systemic abuse in our education and health services over the years up to the present? People who are still alive, some of them still in positions where they are paid by the State and others who have recently retired, have serious questions to answer in this regard. If we are serious about dealing with this, the Taoiseach will be determined to get to the root of it and to find out who are those officials responsible for facilitating this abuse. This is not something that happened in the long and distant past; it continued up to very recent years and there is an onus on the Taoiseach to take responsibility to root out that attitude at certain levels in certain departments of the Civil Service . Will the Taoiseach give a commitment to ensure this happens?

I will ask three questions which members of the survivors’ groups in the Gallery asked me to pose and they relate to an entirely different aspect of the issue. They are very anxious to find out the answers to them. Who decided to add a gagging clause to the redress board scheme? Who decided to add the threat of imprisonment if people spoke about their experience after having been before the redress board? Was it the former Attorney General, Michael McDowell, who was responsible for adding those two provisions? He is not in a position to make a statement in this House but I call on him to make a public statement on those provisions.

Dail debate 5

Michael Woods
(Dublin North East, Fianna Fail)

Once again the Deputy is wrong. The indemnity was before the joint committee of the Dáil and Seanad. It was fully and openly discussed and had the benefit of the advice of the Attorney General. Incidentally, the Deputy did not use the opportunity to use any of the regulations to have a discussion on it at the time which could have been held separately after the Attorney General had completed his side of it.

Of his office and of the experts in the Departments of Finance and Education and Science and others, it did not, as the Deputy says, apportion various liabilities because that was not its function.—–

Joan Burton
(Dublin West, Labour)

It was to cap liability.

Michael Woods
(Dublin North East, Fianna Fail)

In addition, the capping of the contribution was brought before the House. I notice that from March of this year there have only been three cases which had to be covered fully through the courts. There were 23 in all and 20 of those were settled separately. Why is all that going on? It is because the Deputies are trying to use the victims for political purposes—–

Liz McManus
(Wicklow, Labour)

That is an outrageous statement.

 

Michael Woods
(Dublin North East, Fianna Fail)

It worked and it worked well.

Róisín Shortall
(Dublin North West, Labour)

The Deputy used the victims’ groups throughout.

Liz McManus
(Wicklow, Labour)

Deputy Woods is scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Michael Woods
(Dublin North East, Fianna Fail)

In addition, the capping of the contributions was brought before the House. It is time now for Deputy Gilmore to withdraw the statements he made in the House last week. At all times the Government was guided by the interests of the victims of child abuse and ensuring that no extra burden was placed on them by the State. The redress board was set up to enable survivors to be compensated without having to go through the pain of the court process.

 

Michael D Higgins
(Galway West, Labour)

The Deputy should ask them how they got on.

Michael Woods
(Dublin North East, Fianna Fail)

Now that the full extent of child abuse has been revealed in the Ryan report, the Government and Dáil Éireann rightly support a call for additional contributions from the religious congregations. This could be provided in substantial support for a foundation for the future education and welfare of the victims and their families. I welcome the publication of the Ryan report and agree with the Taoiseach that now we must implement all the recommendations, establish a fitting memorial to the victims, establish a trust or foundation to assist the children of the victims in their educational welfare, and arrange for the Garda Commissioner and the Director of Public Prosecutions to actively pursue any criminal proceedings.

In conclusion, I congratulate the Taoiseach on his very fine speech yesterday.

Dail Debates 4

Róisín Shortall
(Dublin North West, Labour)

No one knew it was an indemnity up to June 2002.

Michael Woods
(Dublin North East, Fianna Fail)

On 20 February 2002, the Final Stages of the Residential Institutions Redress Bill were taken in Dáil Éireann. The CORI package and indemnity were discussed again. It was estimated at the time that the overall cost could be up to €500 million. However, since neither the number of victims who were abused nor the extent of injuries was known, the figure could be considerably higher.

Joan Burton
(Dublin West, Labour)

The Deputy is rewriting history.

Michael Woods
(Dublin North East, Fianna Fail)

I am not and Deputy Shortall will find much of this information in the Ryan report.

The Bill passed its Final Stages with the stated agreement of all parties. Deputy Michael Creed, on behalf of the Fine Gael Party, and Deputy Róisín Shortall, on behalf of the Labour Party, thanked me, as Minister, and my officials for the work done on this complex Bill and both Deputies regretted that day pupils in ordinary schools were not included.

Róisín Shortall
(Dublin North West, Labour)

The Deputy has the dates wrong. No one knew it was an indemnity or what were its terms at that point.

Michael Woods
(Dublin North East, Fianna Fail)

While I understood the Deputies’ concern, I stated we were only dealing with the residential schools and reformatories which were under complete, 24-hour control of the Department of Education.

On 8 March 2002, the CORI package was outlined in Seanad Éireann and fully discussed and approved by the House. The Bill was finalised in Seanad Éireann on 22 March 2002 and in Dáil Éireann on 28 March. It became an Act at the beginning of April.

Further meetings involving officials of the Departments of Finance and Education and Science took place on 7 May 2002, at which issues relating to the property transfer part of the agreement were discussed. At a meeting on 16 May 2002 between officials from the Department of Education and Science and Office of the Attorney General, changes to the draft text of the indemnity were discussed and subsequently carried through.

The agreement was finally approved by Government for signature by the Ministers for Finance and Education and Science on 5 June 2002 and then completed on the direction of the Government. This enabled the Residential Institutions Redress Board to begin its work. At last, those who had been abused and injured would be compensated by the State for this horrible period for children in the history of our young nation. This generation of Irish men and women can be proud that they made amends in some small way to those who, as children, were injured and abused in the State’s residential schools and reformatories, mainly from the 1930s until the 1970s.

I trust the sequence I have set out will be helpful to any genuine person who is anxious to understand what was done and why. The Ryan report greatly expanded on our knowledge of how child victims were treated in the State’s residential schools and reformatories. The Government knew in 1998-99 the nature of these abuses and injuries but not the full extent of the awful crimes committed against incarcerated children. Mr. Justice Ryan and his predecessor, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, and their teams of experts and officials have done the State a great service.

Some commentators stated and still state that we should have had a full inventory of all the lands, schools, hospitals, care centres and other facilities before accepting the contribution of religious congregations who ran most of the institutions on behalf of the State. This would have resulted in delay and more pain and suffering for the victims. The scheme was based on taking a no fault, no quibble, no legal context approach. We knew that few cases would succeed in court and, accordingly, the cost of the scheme would be much greater than if cases were contested in court. It was the State’s decision to behave at last in a magnanimous manner to those whom it had offended by its actions in placing children in horrific circumstances, grossly neglecting them and ignoring all warnings and reports. The system, which the State ran, was the cause and opportunity for these grievous offences against children.

Others argue we should have taken time to allocate blame to all the parties involved. This, too, would have involved delay and adversarial court proceedings. It would also have placed victims under renewed stress, which the Government was not prepared to do. The Government determined that the redress scheme be provided regardless of the involvement of anyone else. This was done by the State paying full compensation. The issue was regarded as one for society to be dealt with fully and firmly and once and for all. The most effective way the Government could achieve this outcome was to take responsibility for the matter, which is what it did. The scheme was to be fully funded by the State – that was the starting position – and full awards were to be paid.

It has been alleged repeatedly by some Deputies that a sweetheart deal was done with the religious congregations. The Committee of Public Accounts chaired by Deputy Michael Noonan examined this allegation and concluded:

The Minister had set up a meeting with the Congregations where he wanted to move the agenda forward, re-establish a position of trust and see if an agreement could be reached. He only asked the Secretary General to come along with him and was aware that the Secretary General worked closely on this issue with the Legal Adviser. Suggestions have been made of a sweetheart deal at the meetings with the Minister. The Committee is satisfied that this is not the case.

The reports of the Committee of Public Accounts of March 2001, the Comptroller and Auditor General on the 2002 accounts and the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service all found there was no collusion with anybody, no sweetheart deal was made and every step taken was in line with the Government’s commitments.

I will address two allegations made by Deputy Gilmore on 26 May 2009 in this House. Deputy Gilmore stated:

In the case of Deputy Woods, he has explained why he did not include the Attorney General in discussions because, as he put it, the legal people had fallen out with the religious. [I did not say that.] Therein lies a clue as to why the blind eye was turned over decades. There was an unhealthy deferential relationship between the State and its institutions and the Catholic Church and its religious orders.

The Deputy omitted to refer to the strong rebuttal of the article he cited. It was in the next issue of the Sunday Independent dated 19 October 2003. I refer to a letter which I sent to the newspaper to make quite clear that what they said was wrong. It read:

Dear Editor

Your article published in last Sunday’s Independent October 12th 2003 concerning the agreement between the State and the 18 religious congregations, was a fabrication and a misrepresentation designed to suit a preset agenda. In discussion with your journalist I never mentioned my faith nor my religion nor did I suggest that they influenced me in any way in the manner in which I conducted the negotiations. Throughout the long negotiations involving many meetings from November 2000 until May 2002, all the officials, Ministers and the Attorney General acted with probity and in a fair and objective way. They did this in the full knowledge that the Government, on behalf of the nation, wanted at long last to make amends to those who had suffered injury in residential institutions and to allow the orders to make a meaningful contribution to that process. At all times I acted as an experienced Minister and not on the basis of my religion, as your article implies. Whether I was a Protestant, Catholic or Dissenter, it would have been my duty to do the same. Finally, may I say that your article highlights the need for an independent press council to prevent such irresponsible journalism.

They left that last line out when they published the article.

The second allegation by Deputy Gilmore is contained in the Official Report dated 26 May 2009 at 16.50 p.m.:

It is a pity that in 2002 he [Dr. Woods] did not bring the indemnity deal before the House for approval. What he did was to bring before the House the Residential Institutions Redress Bill, which enjoyed cross-party support at that time as the appropriate way of dealing with this issue. However, the indemnity deal which apportioned the various liabilities and which capped the contribution of the religious orders was never brought before the House.

There is a bit of confusion in that but I will leave that aside.

Pat Rabbitte
(Dublin South West, Labour)

What confusion?

Michael Woods
(Dublin North East, Fianna Fail)

It is his confusion, not mine. Once again, the Deputy is wrong. The indemnity was before the Dáil and Seanad committee and it was fully and openly discussed—–

Róisín Shortall
(Dublin North West, Labour)

That is not true.

Michael Woods
(Dublin North East, Fianna Fail)

—–and had the benefit of the advice of the Attorney General—–

Róisín Shortall
(Dublin North West, Labour)

The indemnity never came before the committee.

Michael Woods
(Dublin North East, Fianna Fail)

—–of his office and of the experts in the Department of Finance, the Department of Education and Science and others.

Pat Rabbitte
(Dublin South West, Labour)

No, it did not.

Róisín Shortall
(Dublin North West, Labour)

On a point of order, Chairman.

Charlie O’Connor
(Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)

Deputy Woods, I am obliged to take a point of order.

Róisín Shortall
(Dublin North West, Labour)

The Deputy is misleading the House. The deed of indemnity never came before the Joint Committee on Education and Science.

Charlie O’Connor
(Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)

The Deputy’s comment is noted but I am advised it is not a point of order. I ask Deputy Woods to continue and he has five and a half minutes remaining.

Michael Woods
(Dublin North East, Fianna Fail

The indemnity is in the legislation. What the Deputies are referring to is the final details which the Attorney General —–

Róisín Shortall
(Dublin North West, Labour)

Those are the important details.

Michael Woods
(Dublin North East, Fianna Fail)

That can be got any time; all those things are done by the Attorney General and the Chief State Solicitor all the time.

Pat Rabbitte
(Dublin South West, Labour)

They were not done and that is the whole point.

Michael Woods
(Dublin North East, Fianna Fail)

The Deputies are caught out now, they are on the bounce, they have their press release out, trying to tie Fianna Fáil in with the church. I know that is what they are at; that is the preset agenda that they have.

Michael D Higgins
(Galway West, Labour)

No, it is not.

Róisín Shortall
(Dublin North West, Labour)

It was done in secret.

Michael Woods
(Dublin North East, Fianna Fail)

That is being driven by the former Sinn Féin-Workers’ Party and by Deputy Rabbitte in particular.

Michael D Higgins
(Galway West, Labour)

There was no hidden agenda. That is the kind of cheap comment we would expect.

Charlie O’Connor
(Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)

Order, please. I ask Deputy Woods to speak through the Chair.

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