The Irish Times – Saturday, April 17, 2010
Survivors split after meeting Taoiseach
PATSY McGARRY Religious Affairs Correspondent
ABUSE VICTIMS and representative groups were bitterly divided yesterday following a four-hour meeting with the Taoiseach and a number of his Cabinet colleagues on Thursday night.
John Kelly of Irish Soca said last night that neither he nor six other survivor groups represented at the meeting wanted any more to do with the Government on the issue. Their intention now, he said, was to seek meetings with the religious congregations to ensure that the additional €200 million being sought from them by the Government goes into a compensation fund which will be administered by employees of the abuse groups.
Thursday’s meeting came immediately after three hours of talks between the Taoiseach and his Cabinet colleagues and representatives of 18 religious congregations which ran residential institutions for children investigated by the Ryan commission.
Mr Kelly said he was “taken aback” and “shell-shocked” at the later meeting when the Taoiseach “dropped the bombshell” that just €110 million from contributions by the congregations was to go into a fund for former residents of the institutions, which would be administered by the State.
At that point, Michael O’Brien of the Right to Peace group walked out, he said. Later, so did Tom Hayes of the Alliance group, Christy Heaphy of the Right of Place group, as well as representatives of Justice and Healing, Irish Survivors of Institutional Abuse, and an international survivors’ group.
The Taoiseach was called “a thief, a deceiver and a cheat” and was told that the monument to abuse victims recommended by the Ryan report should be “a statue of him with a balaclava”.
He said that “to describe the meeting as ‘angry’ would be mild”.
Christine Buckley of the Aislinn centre in Dublin, however, criticised some at the meeting. She said they were “destructive from the start and used very aggressive tones even before the Taoiseach opened his mouth”.
She welcomed the new fund and the further contributions from religious congregations, although she felt it was “a disappointing figure”. Still, she said, “you have to remember, the religious orders didn’t have to contribute another penny. They did so because of public outcry following Ryan,” she said.
She was pleased with the Taoiseach’s promise to look into the situation of women who had been in Magdalene laundries, and the issue of late applications for redress. Others pleased with the meeting included Mick Waters of Soca UK, Paddy Doyle, Noel Barry of the Right of Place group, and London councillor Sally Mulready, she said.
The Taoiseach had been “extremely patient throughout and very attentive”, she said. He was accompanied at the meeting by Tánaiste Mary Coughlan, Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern, Minister for Health Mary Harney, and the Minister for Children, Barry Andrews.