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Quinn to face down religious groups despite boycott threat

EDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn is pressing ahead with his meeting to demand a bigger contribution to the child abuse bill from the religious orders -- despite the threat of a boycott.

Just two of the 18 religious orders contacted by the Irish Independent confirmed yesterday that they would turn up for the meeting in the Department of Education on Friday.

The De La Salle Brothers and the Sisters of Nazareth said they would not be there because they wanted to meet Mr Quinn at a later stage.

A source close to several of the congregations last night predicted others might also avoid taking part -- and that those who did turn up would "just listen" to Mr Quinn rather than pledge any further contributions.

Mr Quinn has called the meeting as a first step in his plan to get the religious orders to contribute €200m more to the €1.3bn bill for compensating victims of child abuse in industrial schools run by the religious orders.

A spokeswoman for Mr Quinn confirmed the meeting was going ahead at 2pm on Friday. She said the minister was still looking for congregations named in the Ryan Report to transfer ownership of schools to the State to help make up the €200m shortfall.

But the religious orders are adamant they never agreed to a 50:50 split of the €1.3bn compensation bill when they agreed to make further contributions after the publication of the Ryan Report in 2009.

It is understood some religious orders have made a full contribution to the €476m pledged so far -- but that others have not come up to the mark.

Some of the religious congregations, such as the Rosminians and Good Shepherd Sisters, have said they have nothing more to contribute.

Under Mr Quinn's plan, the schools owned by the religious orders would continue to operate under their patronage until the schools themselves decided otherwise. But the taxpayer would be given the legal ownership of those properties, so they could not be sold in the future.

However, none of the religious orders contacted by the Irish Independent last night were willing to openly back this plan.

The Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul confirmed they would meet Mr Quinn but said they had "nothing further to add at this time".

The Religious Sisters of Charity said it would be attending the meeting with Mr Quinn -- but did not say if it approved of his school transfer plan.


The Ryan Report into the industrial schools run by the religious orders said sexual abuse was endemic in boys' institutions but different in girls' institutions. It found a "climate of fear" permeated most of them, with children living in the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday highlighted the issue of sexual abuse by launching a DVD about disabled women from Co Mayo who were sexually abused.

"It challenges, informs, educates and most of all shines a light under a dark rock. Unfortunately, sexual violence still continues to plague our society. It has a devastating effect on victims and their families," he said.

Meanwhile, Simon Harris, a Fine Gael TD from Wicklow, yesterday called on each bishop in the Catholic Church to reveal how many priests in their diocese are refusing to undergo garda vetting.

The refusal of some priests to be vetted was highlighted by the church's own child protection body, the National Board for Safeguarding Children.


Irish Independent