Press Release from Anne Ferris TD
Speaking in the Dáil Deputy Ferris said:
“While I welcome the opportunity to discuss this Bill, the history leading to it is one that I wish had never occurred. It is a history of abuse; systemic, endemic and covered-up abuse.
“Many, many thousands of men and women, boys and girls then, suffered at the hands of a Church and State that clearly didn’t give a damn about their welfare. They had a responsibility to them, a duty of care, which was often ignored or discharged corruptly.
“The Church and State still have a responsibility to them and this is where the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill is located.
“The Bill is welcome then and offers a much needed fund to support the education, health, housing and welfare needs of the survivors of residential child abuse.
“The cost in responding to this abuse is now estimated to exceed €1.36 billion and I certainly believe that this should be shared on a 50:50 basis between Church and State.
“I must say that I was very surprised by the outcome of the original indemnity deal negotiated in 2002. There is still some mystery as to why the Church was limited to providing €128 million in cash and property especially when it would seem the Department of Finance had suggested otherwise.
“I know well that the main and most important outcome of this Bill is that victims receive any and all assistance that they need. I do think it incumbent to say, however, that those who were at fault should bear the full responsibility for their actions, and certainly the original indemnity deal could in no way contribute fully to this responsibility.
“To this end I support and join Minister Ruairi Quinn’s calls for further substantial contributions as a way of making the reparations that are sorely needed. I know that he has called for the school infrastructure that the congregations possess, to be transferred at no cost to the State. I would endorse this call as a helpful approach as it would allow a further shouldering of the costs while permitting schools to operate under the ethos they choose.
“It has been reported that 17 religious orders have an asset base of around €2.6 billion and therefore the feasibility of offering more to the overall fund is not beyond their means at all.
“The end result of this process must, as I said, be that victim’s needs are met adequately. It is also important that mechanisms are put in place that will help prevent a recurrence of something like this again.
“It is for this reason that I do also welcome the Government’s commitment to place the Children First guidelines on a statutory basis. This along with the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill 2012 will also help in this regard.
“I must say though, that I think there is something very wrong at the heart of a Church, of which I’m a member that would allow this abuse to happen. It is clear from report after report that the violence suffered on children was horrific and made worse by it being covered up for so many years.
“There is also something wrong on wider issues concerning many of the Church’s teachings, its dogma and rhetoric. They appear to be sadly at odds with what the general public feel. I thought it quite interesting, the poll which was taken on behalf of the Association of Catholic Priests. Among a number of findings it showed that three quarters of the population believed that the Church’s teaching on sexuality had no relevance to them. It demonstrated that large majorities thought that priests ought to be allowed to marry and that there should be women priests ordained. It also showed strong disagreement with the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.
“All of this demonstrates a very wide disconnect with the people and I wonder and worry whether this is even recognised properly.
“I would also like to commend those survivors who bravely came forward to highlight the abuse they experienced. I would like to make particular mention of Christine Buckley. I was a former pupil at Goldenbridge, and while I was lucky not to have experienced abuse, hearing the awful stories that came out of that institution really brought the issue of abuse home to me. I think it very brave of her and all those others who came forward to bring light on a very dark chapter of our history.
“I am glad then, that the Government is taking some of the necessary steps to do something about addressing past wrongs. However, there is a ways to go still, and more work is required to ensure some measure of justice is achieved for those who have suffered.”
Category: Anne Ferris TD