Thursday, 28 January 2010
Inquiry into Child Abuse.
Question 2: To ask the Minister for Education and Science if he will publish the findings of the State audit into the assets of the 18 religious teaching orders which was ordered in view of the Ryan report; the reason, more than eight months later, no revised contribution to the cost of the Residential Institutions Redress Board has been agreed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4258/10]
I will be bringing the report of the panel appointed by the Government to assess the statements of resources submitted by the 18 religious congregations that were party to the 2002 indemnity agreement, together with details of the congregations' offers of contributions, to the attention of the Government shortly. The arrangements for the publication of the panel's report and the offers of contributions will be considered by the Government. While some individual congregations have published details of their offers, the Deputy will be aware of my concern to have the collective comprehensive position available for survivors and their representatives in the first instance.
The Deputy will be aware of the background to the call for a further substantial contribution from the religious congregations and the establishment of an independent panel to assess the financial statements of the congregations. As the Deputy points out, it is some eight months since the publication of the Ryan report. It is fair, however, to acknowledge that the work of the panel was complex involving an assessment of financial statements from 18 congregations. The panel submitted its report at the end of October. Following examination my Department sought some clarifications and in response the panel submitted an expanded report on 25 November. Over the same period a response was awaited from the religious congregations to the calls for a further substantial contribution. These responses were received during the period from late October to early December.
While an overall offer of a contribution on behalf of the congregations collectively was sought, the congregations' responses have been on an individual basis, and a complete set of responses received by early December, 2009. These offers are separate from the 2002 indemnity agreement and associated contributions. The current engagement with the religious congregations does not involve a re-negotiation of that agreement. The offers are not the subject of any negotiation with the Government but rather are a matter for the religious congregations to make in the light of the findings of the Ryan report, the cost of redress to the State, the resources available to the congregations and, ultimately, for the public to judge. The uses to which the contributions will be put will be considered by the Government in consultation with the representatives of the survivors and the congregations.
Since early December my Department has examined the panel's final report and the responses from the congregations. It has also been in contact with other relevant Departments and has commenced the formal consultation process required before I submit the matters to Government. As I indicated at the outset I hope to do this very shortly.
I do not wish to know what is in the panel report and I do not necessarily wish to know at this stage what decisions the Minister will take regarding the matters he has just outlined. Can the Minister inform the House how much has come in? Can he give a breakdown between cash and kind, because this is not negotiable? This is a matter of fact and, according to the Minister, he has had the figures since early December.
It would be remiss of me to remark otherwise. The Deputy will be aware that there are several statements from various congregations in the public domain which outline their offers. They are in the public domain.
Others wished to keep the matter confidential. The Deputy will recall the Taoiseach gave a commitment that as part of the overall situation, he would discuss the matter and the Government would consider the panel's report and the composition of the offers. After that, it would hold discussions with the survivors and the congregations and it would then be made public.
I appreciate this new found obsession with secrecy and privacy on behalf of the Government, but we are discussing taxpayers' money. The taxpayer is out to the tune of €1.27 billion in terms of funding the costs of the redress board. The religious congregations have contributed in the order of 10%. Whatever about the final destination of the money, the taxpayer has had to pay the balance in the meantime. Surely, at this stage without prejudice to any decision the Minister may make or to the outturn of the panel's report, the Minister should be able to give an indication of how much has been offered in gross terms either in cash or kind or some combination of the two.
I refer the Deputy to what the Taoiseach asked of the congregations. He believed they should make a substantial contribution. It is for the Government to decide whether this is a substantial contribution, based on what appeared in the Ryan report. It is only right and proper that the Government should have an opportunity to consider all these elements. I have circulated the memo to all Ministers at this stage. I have asked Ministers to consider the matter and I have allowed more than one week for them to revert with observations. I hope to have the matter before Cabinet in the next couple of weeks.
I have no wish to anticipate what the Cabinet will do. However, I point out the use of the word "substantial". The Government must consider the offers made and it must reckon whether any offer is substantial. I reiterate that the final arbiter in this case will be the public.