DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland will reform its social services for children in line with the recommendations of a report cataloguing decades of abuse by priests published last week, Prime Minister Brian Cowen said on Tuesday.
Cowen apologised to victims for the state’s failure to intervene in what the report described as endemic sexual abuse and severe beatings in schools for much of the 20th century and he urged religious orders to pay additional compensation.
“It is deeply shameful for all Irish people that this happened in our country and that for so long it was not confronted,” he told a news conference.
Cowen welcomed Tuesday’s announcement by the Catholic order of Christian Brothers that it would review the compensation paid to victims of sexual abuse and violence.
“I believe that other individual congregations involved should now also articulate their willingness to make a further substantial voluntary contribution,” Cowen said.
Irish religious orders had previously refused to renegotiate a deal for victims, despite pressure from church leaders and politicians after last week’s report into abuse at institutions the orders ran between the 1930s and the 1970s.
“The Christian Brothers accept, with shame, the findings of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse,” the order said. “The congregation is deeply sorry for the hurt we have caused.”
Religious orders’ total contribution to a redress scheme for thousands of victims that is expected to top 1 billion euros (877 million pounds) was capped at 127 million euros under a 2002 agreement.
The Commission said in its harrowing five-volume report, which took nine years to compile, that orphanages and industrial schools in 20th century Ireland were places of fear, neglect and endemic sexual abuse.
Cowen said the cabinet would implement all the report’s recommendations, both to alleviate the impact on victims and to prevent future abuse by strengthening inspections and ensuring the provision of child-centred welfare services.
Chaired by a High Court judge, the commission blasted generations of priests, nuns and the Christian Brothers for beating, starving and, in some cases raping, children in Ireland’s now defunct network of industrial and reformatory schools.
The 18 orders that signed the deal with the government — including the Christian Brothers — said on Monday they did not want to renegotiate its terms.
On Tuesday the Brothers begged forgiveness for the children’s suffering and said they would review how much they could pay in reparation without compromising current services and investment.
The order will release an update on compensation within six weeks, it said, adding it would also conduct a wider review of the whole order, which had “lost its way and failed in its most basic duty.”
Successful legal action by the Christian Brothers, the largest provider of residential care for boys in the country in the period examined by the report, led the Commission to drop its original idea of naming the people against whom the allegations were made.
Revelations of abuse, including a string of scandals involving priests molesting young boys, have eroded the Catholic Church’s moral authority in Ireland, once one of the most devout countries in the world.
Editing by Tim Pearce