Irish advocates pleased by efforts to increase aid to abuse victims

DUBLIN, Ireland – One of Ireland’s most vocal advocates of justice for abuse survivors said a June 3 meeting with the Irish prime minister was “the first time the government had listened” to the story of victims who suffered under the care of religious orders and their campaign for redress.

Christine Buckley, a leader in the effort to expose abuse and secure just compensation for victims, said Prime Minister Brian Cowan was “very, very straight and honest with us.”

“I think that was very evident from (what was said following) the meeting with religious,” she told Catholic News Service. “He told them they had a moral responsibility, but I think it goes beyond that.”

Buckley’s experiences in Goldenbridge orphanage in Dublin were profiled in a 1996 television documentary “Dear Daughter.” The program was a catalyst for the establishment of the Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse that investigated the abuse of children in residential institutions run by Catholic religious orders. The orphanage was operated by the Sisters of Mercy.

The commission issued its findings, known as the Ryan report, May 20. It said that a climate of fear created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment permeated most of Ireland’s residential care institutions for children and all those run for boys from 1940 through the 1970s.

In the meeting with Cowan and other government officials Buckley said she called on the religious orders to provide 50 percent of all their assets towards compensating victims.

Leaders of 18 religious orders implicated in decades of abuse of thousands of children agreed to increase their contribution to a compensation fund for victims after meeting with Irish government leaders June 3, but no amount was set.

“CORI (Conference of Religious in Ireland) previously valued the 18 congregations’ assets at more than 20 billion euros ($28.3 billion). A huge amount of that money was accrued by the religious orders through child slavery. If the independent audit shows they have 20 billion euros, 10 billion euros of that should go to compensating victims,” Buckley said.

She suggested that 5 billion euros be used to increase compensation to those who presented evidence to the commission. The remaining 5 billion euros should be set aside to compensate survivors who have not yet come forward for a variety of reasons, she said.

Another survivor group, One in Four, also welcomed Cowan’s “recognition of the behavior of the religious orders” and “his acknowledgment of the attitudes and behavior of current religious leadership, both during the investigation and since the publication of the Ryan report.”

One in Four advocacy director Deirdre Kenny said in a press statement that any meaningful apologies from religious orders must be backed with adequate reparation to victims.

The statement said efforts must be made to ensure that adequate counseling and support for survivors continues.

“Over the last number of weeks One In Four has been overwhelmed with requests for counseling and advocacy support,” the statement said. “We welcome (Prime Minister Cowan’s) acceptance that the state is also responsible for the well-being of survivors, and we call on the government to ensure support services are adequately resourced.”

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.