The Irish Times – Monday, October 4, 2010
MARK HENNESSY, London Editor
IRISH VICTIMS of clerical sexual abuse living in the United Kingdom believe the compensation fund, set up with extra contributions from religious organisations, should also be used to compensate women held in the Magdalene laundries.
Meanwhile, only a minority of victims who took part in a survey expressed interest in returning to live in Ireland permanently – though a majority, particularly the older among them and those with disabilities, said they would appreciate the opportunity of coming back on funded holidays.
In a survey carried out by the Irish Women Survivors’ Support Network (UK), victims complained that the rules governing the statutory fund, which was agreed by an all-party Dáil motion in 2009 – and which is still being set up – are “lacking in significant detail”.
Spending cutbacks to come in the UK could leave some victims homeless, or living in unsatisfactory conditions, the survey notes. Over a quarter currently have problems. “This figure is likely to increase as UK economic circumstances worsen.
“Most homeowners have not recorded that they are in housing need,” according to the survey authors. However, some individuals do need urgent assistance with mortgage repayments to continue to remain in their own home, they found. The victims warned particularly, that the fund “may fail to take account of the needs of survivors” living in the UK.
“It is not clear from the Government’s proposals how the proposed statutory fund will impact on existing arrangements.”
Following difficult negotiations after the Ryan Report was published in 2009, religious congregations offered extra compensation in land and buildings valued by the Government at €348 million, on top of the original €128 million offered under the 2002 indemnity agreement. Since then, victims’ groups have been in discussion with the Government about how the €110 million – in cash – offered in the post-Ryan deal will be spent over coming years, though the detail of the non-cash part of the offer has yet to be finalised. UK survivors strongly demanded that some of their number should sit on the trust fund board, while a majority said experts in public financial administration should also be drafted on to it.
Almost 400 detailed questionnaires were distributed by the pollsters, and 122 returned. Most of those who replied, a total of 115, were women, with an average age of 64. Just over half live in London, with 24 per cent living in the southeast of England.
More than 70 per cent said they will need welfare payments from the fund; with 43 per cent seeking help both with their education and the education of their children and grandchildren. Some 76 per cent identified pensions for those over 66 as important, while 54 per cent sought annual holidays in Ireland – but only 36 per cent sought help to return to live in Ireland.
The poll showed strong support from abuse victims for the extension of the new fund to women who lived in Magdalene laundries. Some 98 of those polled believed it should; only three did not. Just over one-fifth of the victims receive regular counselling and almost half of that number has done so for up to 10 years.