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Questions for Ahern over child abuse bill

BERTIE AHERN should be forced to explain why his government made a deal with the Church that taxpayers would pick up the bill for compensation to child abuse victims, say campaigners.

Survivors of clerical abuse have called for a special Dail inquiry into the 2002 deal that Mr Ahern and his then Education Minister Michael Woods agreed to, which left the taxpayer to pick up a ¤1bn compensation bill for the Catholic Church.


Following the furore over the Cloyne Report's conclusions that Bishop John Magee and the Vatican hampered garda inquiries into alleged child abuse in the diocese, Irish Survivors of Child Abuse said it was now time for the Dail to shine light on the deal.

The last act of the outgoing Fianna Fail/Progressive Democrat government was to agree with the Conference of Religious in Ireland that they only pay €128m towards compensation for thousands of victims of abuser priests and religious orders.

The final bill was more than €1bn and the taxpayer paid.

Patrick Walsh, a survivor of abuse at the notorious Artane Industrial School, today challenged the Fine Gael-Labour government to agree to let the Dail's high-powered Public Accounts Committee investigate that controversial deal.

In an interview with The Herald Mr Walsh said: "The PAC should convene a special investigation into the 2002 deal which was struck up between the CORI congregations and the then government.

"Dr Michael Woods signed on behalf of the government and Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach knew or ought to have known that the Irish taxpayer was being set up for a hit."

The Irish Soca co-founder described the deal as a "stitch-up of the taxpayer" and the time was now right to get to the truth of how ordinary citizens paid for the crimes of the clergy.

"The new government is attempting to put right a grave wrong from the past and there is a moral imperative on the part of the religious orders to actively enter into discussions with government to resolve this festering wound," he said.

Mr Ahern, he added, should be questioned robustly over whether or not he knew that the taxpayer was going to be "mugged" to protect the church and its assets.