Yesterday Ireland was rocked by the publication of the Ryan Commission report on the cruelty of the so called 'child care' regimes experienced by tens of thousands of Irish children between the 1940's and the late 1980's. The care of these children, most of them from working class and/or deprived backgrounds were 'outsourced', to use a modern term, to various Religious orders of the Roman Catholic Church. That this happened at all is a clear indication of the overly close and incestuous relationship which existed between the Church and the state of the Irish Republic in those days, a relationship which is meant to be less submissive and deferential these days....
The report itself makes absolutely harrowing reading, and can be accessed here
In the closing days of the last Fianna Fail adminstration, a deal was rushed through which 'indemnified' the religious orders from any further financial responsibility than that agreed in the deal. This notorious Church-State deal, capped the contribution of the religious orders at €128 million (and only a fraction of that in hard cash), the religious orders claimed there had been no cover-up of abuse and no protection of abusers. We now discover from the Ryan report that this was a lie, and that several religious orders not only knew all about the abusers in their midst but concealed that knowledge from the rest of us.
It was a fantastic deal for the religious orders, and an absolute stinker for the people of Ireland, and most importantly of all a retrospectively studied insult to the victims .
The religious establishment here in Ireland , were in effect left well and truly off the hook, for a relatively small financial pay-out, most of which took the form of properties, which were in effect for various legal, and now, economic reasons unsaleable assets in any case.
Why was this deal so soft on the Roman Catholic Church? It is very instructive to read again some of the quotes from the press at the time of the deal from the main Minister involved Dr Michael Woods of Fianna Fail....the ones reproduced below have a particular resonance, now in the light of the Ryan Commission report. A resonance that they did not quite possess to the same extent at the time of the deal....
"My faith helped to save church abuse deal, says Woods" Sunday Independent Sunday October 12th 2003EOGHAN WILLIAMS....
Defending the exclusion of then Attorney-General, Michael McDowell, and his officials from two meetings, Dr Woods said: "The legal people simply couldn't have attended - it was a no-go area for them - they had fallen out with the religious." As the row over the exclusion of the Attorney-General's office from the negotiations continues to divide the Government, Mr Woods yesterday told the Sunday Independent: "My religion was an asset." While Dr Woods said his Catholicism had helped to break the deadlock in the negotiations, he denied he was a member of Opus Dei. He also said he was not a member of the Order of the Knights of St Columbanus or any other lay Catholic organisation.When Dr Woods and the Department of Education Secretary General, John Dennehy, eventually struck a deal with religious institutions, the Church's liability was capped at €128m, a settlement which has been strongly criticised by the Comptroller & Auditor General.
Asked yesterday ( 2003 ed) if Michael Woods was a member of Opus Dei, the organisation's spokesman in Ireland, Paul Harmon, said: "It is not the role of the Opus Dei information office to say whether a person is or is not a member because it is a personal matter to do with their spiritual lives."
Dr Woods... said he had always brought a "straight and honourable" Catholic decency to his work.He denied ground was conceded by the Government during the negotiations. But he said his strong Catholic faith, as well as his status as the minister, had "kick-started" the talks and led to a larger financial commitment coming from the religious orders."My religion was an asset. They knew me and they knew my work. I can't say someone else wouldn't have been able to do the same. That said, they would have known me well," Dr Woods said. He said that he entered politics after working with several Catholic community groups. "I am a Christian first, then a Catholic," he said.Dr Woods said he kept in mind the "helpfulness and generosity" of the Church, which he had experienced as a minister, during the negotiations. The Church had not only given guidance, but also property, he said.Survivors of Child Abuse, a group representing clerical abuse victims, has accused the former Education Minister of being a member of Opus Dei, a group labelled "the holy mafia" by its detractors.
Reading all the above, it becomes very obvious why CORI ( the Conference of Religious in Ireland) have confirmed that they were 'not aware' of any plans for any of the Religious orders revisiting the terms of the deal arrived at with Dr Woods.....In poker circles thats called 'quitting whilst you're ahead', it also helps if you are playing with a dodgy set of playing cards, and the croupier is in your pocket.