Gov should seek extra cash from Orders to pay aggravated damages to abuse victims

Before the Taoiseach meets the Religious Congregations, who ran the residential institutions, he must devise a strategy based on what ought now to be achieved for the benefit of the great number of men and women that have been abused and exploited in the systematic way so convincingly described in the Ryan Report.

A starting point for the Taoiseach’s discussions with the Congregations should be a demand by him that as a first step they will pay to the Redress Board the equivalent of 20% of the awards that have been and are yet to be made so that each recipient of redress will be paid by the Redress Board an additional payment equivalent to 20% of his or her award.

Although the Redress Board is empowered to award up to €60,000 (being 20% of the maximum award of €300,000) for aggravated damages, the Board has rarely made any award for aggravated damages.

The scheme for Redress which was published by Mr Justice Ryan’s Compensation Advisory Committee in January 2002 clearly contemplated that aggravated damages not exceeding 20% of the Redress awarded might be awarded by the Redress Board where the applicant has satisfied the board, that it is appropriate to do so having regard to the circumstances of the abuse suffered by the applicant. This principle that aggravated damages should be available seems to have been given very limited application in practice.

No new deal should be concluded with the Religious Congregations until the Oireachtas Committee on Public Accounts has heard evidence from Michael Woods TD, the then Secretary General of the Department of Education and Science and the representatives of the Residential Institutions about the extent of disclosure made to the Government in 2002 by the Religious Orders about the nature, severity and extent of abuse and exploitation in their institutions over many years past.

This time the deal must be fair and fully reflect the appalling injuries that have been documented by the Ryan Report.