The Shame of Ireland
As you will be aware, the Act sets out four broad areas of approved services for the Fund to support. It is now a matter for you as a Board to put the flesh on the bones of the legislation – to determine what constitutes an approved service, to determine application procedures and criteria for deciding on applications.minister%20address.pdf
Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Inaugural Meeting on Wednesday March 27th 2013 Minister’s Opening Address I am delighted to be with you today for this the first meeting of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board. At the outset, I want to thank all of you most sincerely for agreeing to accept my invitation to become members of the new Board. I greatly appreciate the fact that you have all agreed to give of your time to participate in the work of the Board particularly as the positions are unremunerated. The establishment of this Fund represent another important step in meeting the needs of those affected by residential institutional child abuse. The idea of the Fund was first mooted in the motions passed by Dáil Éireann following the publication of the Ryan Report, which with its catalogue of systemic abuse, shocked a nation that thought it was beyond being shocked. The litany and scale of the abuse recounted by anguished voices caused us, as a people, to be ashamed and to apologise to those whose childhoods were stolen and who, in many instances, could not live full lives as adults. The Ryan Report’s conclusions were unequivocal and damning, detailing the failures of those who managed the institutions and the failure of the State to protect its vulnerable children. The Report justified the decision to establish the Residential Institutions Redress Board to compensate survivors outside the court system. The Report’s findings are an indictment of us all and it is our duty to ensure that the lessons of the past are learned and that such abuse is never repeated. The comprehensive response to child abuse has not only involved the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse which produced the Ryan Report, but also the Residential Institutions Redress Board, the Education Finance Board, the National Counselling Services, the Origins Family Tracing Service operated by Barnardos and support for survivor groups and outreach services in the UK. The provision of a Memorial to victims of abuse, as recommended by the Ryan Report, is also being pursued and I would thank Bernadette and Paddy for their work in this regard. We must await the Decision of Dublin City Council on the planning application lodged for the Memorial by the Office of Public Works. In the context of protecting future generations, there have been very significant developments in our child care procedures and practices and that work is ongoing. The new Department of Children and Youth Affairs along with the new Child and Family Support Agency, together with the putting of the Children First Guidelines on a statutory basis and the enshrining of children’s rights in our Constitution will help protect our children so that the horrendous abuses suffered by so many are a thing of the past. It has been a long journey to get to this day. I know that there are a variety of views on the Fund among survivors, with some survivors remaining sceptical about the merits of the Fund. Nevertheless, I am confident that your work will make a meaningful contribution to the wellbeing of the survivors of institutional abuse. The Board has important work to carry out and it will no doubt have a busy workload ahead of it over the next few months. As you know the Fund is being financed by the cash contributions pledged by the congregations in their responses to the call for further contributions following the Ryan Report. The contributions received have been transferred to the new investment account opened by the NTMA on behalf of the Fund. A total of €41.3 million has now been transferred to that account. We expect that further contributions of some €27million will be received shortly from those congregations who were awaiting the establishment of the Fund and the commencement of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 2012. The timing of some contributions was to be over a period of years and my officials have been engaging with the congregations regarding their timing, some of which are linked to property sales. I will be reporting to my Cabinet colleagues shortly on the engagement with the religious congregations in the context of the Government’s position that the costs of the response to residential institutional abuse, which will reach some €1.5bn, should be shared on a 50:50 basis between the State and those responsible for the management of the institutions. The practical arrangements are that my Department will accept the cash contributions from the religious congregations and arrange for these contributions to be lodged to the investment account. My officials will keep the Board fully advised of all developments. As you will be aware, the Act sets out four broad areas of approved services for the Fund to support. It is now a matter for you as a Board to put the flesh on the bones of the legislation – to determine what constitutes an approved service, to determine application procedures and criteria for deciding on applications. This work, involving a wide range of service areas across health and personal social services, counselling and mental health services, and education and housing will be challenging. Clearly reaching out to former residents will also be a challenge. Data protection legislation and general confidentiality requirements preclude the Board from writing to the 15,000 potential applicants, so innovative strategies will be needed to make former residents aware of your services. At present, eligibility is confined to those former residents who received awards from the Redress Board and or court awards. The legislation provides that the Redress Board will provide certain basic personal data of awardees to the Board to allow eligibility to be confirmed. This will I believe allow for a smooth application process. Eligibility for access to the Fund was one of the issues raised during the Debates on the legislation in the Houses of the Oireachtas, with some calls for it to be widened to include former residents who did not receive Redress awards and the relatives of former residents. While I believe that the approach taken is correct having regard to the potential pool of applicants and the maximum of €110 million available, I have agreed that the operation of the Fund can be reviewed two years after its establishment and suitable adjustments made at that stage, if appropriate. In appointing you to the Board I took account of the need to appoint persons with different skills and experiences, all of which would combine to create an effective Board. The combination of former resident members’ and other members’ perspectives will enhance the effectiveness of the Board and I believe that it is important to have Phyllis and Martin bring a UK perspective, having regard to the numbers of former residents living in the UK. I am confident that Sylda brings a wealth of experience to her role as chairperson. Finally I want to wish you all well in the work that is facing you. The road ahead may seem daunting but you can be assured of my support and that of the Department – our doors will always be open to you if our assistance is required. The tasks to be carried out are vital in ensuring that we as a people can ease the pain and suffering of those who still bear the scars of the abuse suffered in institutions. On behalf of the Government I want to express my gratitude to you all for agreeing to take part in this important work.