Irish government rules out extending 2002 scheme to latest victims because of cost
By Adam Shaw
The Irish Government has said it will not extend its 2002 abuse compensation scheme to survivors of institutional abuse at the country’s infamous Mother and Baby Homes.
Many survivors are now elderly and living in this country. Last week a report by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes said costs made it impossible to restart or extend the scheme. It argued that the programme raised “important financial and legal questions” and that it had been “costly”.
The scheme cost £1.27 billion (€1.5 billion) up until 2015, substantially more than the original estimate of £212 million (€250 million).
“The Government is conscious that the commission has made no findings to date regarding abuse or neglect, and believes it would not be appropriate to deal with the question of redress in advance of any conclusions on this issue by the commission,” the report said.
It added that there were administrative issues which would need to be addressed since things had often been “complex” and “difficult” for applicants. The initial redress scheme was set up under the Residential Institutions Redress Act (2002), to make “fair and reasonable awards” to those who were abused as children “while resident in industrial schools, reformatories and other institutions subject to State regulation or inspection” from the mid-1930s to the 1970s.
An indemnity agreement signed in 2002 between the Irish State and 18 religious congregations also meant that the State became liable for any claims made against these organisations.
In return, the congregations would contribute money and property totalling £109 million (€128 million) towards the scheme. At the end of 2015, there was still £18 million (€21 million) left outstanding.
Campaigners for those who lived in Mother and Baby Homes have been critical of the Irish Government’s recommendation. The Coalition of Mother and Baby Homes Survivors (CMABS) said that, although the report is to be “largely welcomed”, sections of it were “disappointing and hurtful”.
Spokesman Paul Redmond hit out at Irish Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone and the decision not to immediately offer redress to people who were unaccompanied as children in Mother and Baby Homes. He said: “Minister Zappone’s refusal is immoral, repulsive and cold hearted at this time when it is clear that all this refusal does is kick the can down the road while waiting for more and more elderly survivors to die. “Clearly money means more to Zappone and this Government than any sense of common decency or morality.”
Derek Leinster, spokesperson for The Bethany Home Survivors Group, called on the Irish Government to reverse the “shameful and immoral” decision.
“What was the point of the Government appointing an expert group that heard evidence from Mother and Baby home survivors and that carefully sifted through evidence, if they weren’t going to listen to them?” he said.
“Minister Zappone has zapped her own panel of experts. She did not listen to the evidence, she did not hear stories of abuse and neglect. “She has betrayed the trust of survivors who put their faith in the Commission. Survivors took time out to tell their tale, only for the Government to abuse their trust.
“The excuse that there were problems with a previous redress scheme is pathetic. Go and devise a better one then: get a Government and civil service who can do it. It is all down to cost because Mother and Baby Home survivors are of no account.”
Minister Zappone defended the decision by saying there had been no finding of abuse or neglect from the Commission of Investigation into the homes. She told the Dáil that, at present, it would be premature to deal with the issue of redress.