May 24, 2009 / 9:58 PM / 10 years ago

Irish orders pressured on child abuse compensation

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish religious orders should pay more compensation to victims of child abuse, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said on Sunday, after a report into Catholic-run schools and orphanages spoke of sexual abuse and floggings.

Pressure continued to mount on the orders from politicians and senior church figures after the publication last week of a nine-year investigation describing neglect and, in some cases, rape of children at the institutions.

Under a 2002 agreement with the State, 18 orders found to have institutionally abused children agreed to pay 127 million euros ($177.7 million) compensation in a scheme that media said would surpass 1.3 billion euros.

Lenihan said those contributions should be increased but reiterated comments made by Prime Minister Brian Cowen in the wake of the report that the orders were under no legal obligation to revisit the deal.

“They (the religious orders) should contribute more but we don’t have the strong battery of legal armor at our disposal,” Lenihan told state broadcaster RTE.

“The attorney (general) will give us definitive advice on Tuesday but the indications are not very hopeful because when you sign an indemnity agreement, that’s an agreement.”

Earlier on Sunday, Father Tim Bartlett, a special adviser to Cardinal Sean Brady, said the relevant orders should pay more, a view later backed up by the Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor.

Bartlett told BBC Radio that the next step for the church was “genuine repentance” and that should include “every dimension of acknowledgement including compensation.”

The Conference of Religious in Ireland (Cori), the body that negotiated the agreement, said on Friday that none of the orders planned to revisit the deal.

The Government will hold a special cabinet meeting on Tuesday to consider the report after coming under pressure from the two main opposition parties and a two-day parliamentary debate will follow.

Main opposition party leader Enda Kenny was among thousands of people — including Archbishop for Dublin Diarmuid Martin — who signed a book of solidarity for the victims of abuse in Dublin over the weekend.

Editing by Charles Dick

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