Indemnity And The Religious



Michael Woods

The June 2002 deal between Fianna Fail (above) and 18 religious orders, brokered by Michael Woods while serving as Minister for Education, awarded indemnity against all legal claims if…

…they paid €128m in cash and property.

Total liability was estimated at €300m even though no detailed analysis was carried out by any government department. The Government estimated there would be 2,000 claimants. In the end, there were more than 14,000.

Total liability is currently estimated at €1.2bn


The indemnity deal at a glance (irish Independent, May 22, 2009)

AmIStillOnThisIsland writes:

A few points about the Indemnity deal

It was never run past the Attorney General of the day [Michael McDowell].

It was finalised outside of a dissolved Daíl and no vote ever taken on it.

It could be repealed in the morning with few grounds for legal challenge

A bill was presented to the Daíl in 2009 to repeal the deal but got nowhere.

Less than 70% of the monies owed by the Church has been paid, example the Christian Brothers have paid 4 Million of a total 42 owed.

So if Enda was serious about being a ‘Catholic but not a Catholic Taoiseach’, he would repeal the bill in the morning and open all of the religious institutions to a liability to pay for their crimes.


(Eamon Farrell/Photocall Ireland)

53 thoughts on “Indemnity And The Religious

  1. JoeyJoeJoe

    Good old fashioned stitch-up. Nothing else. But at least Martin McAleese produced a rigorous, fully-independent and about all compassionate report. Good man, Martin!

      1. JoeyJoeJoe

        Er… well I don’t understand what u mean and what the pubic has to do with it….. so …probably not, but maybe so..

    1. Rob

      Martin McAleese as a Good Catholic Produced a Whitewash that Absolved the Religious Orders from Blame; he Dumped it Squarely on the State; While his wife was reading Canon Law in Rome!

  2. nellyb

    Fair play to AmIStillOnThisIsland in fairness for highlighting the “shortcuts” on Indemnity Agreement. If all these breaches are verifiable, than there is a case to nullify it. I’d lobby it with my TD, that’s for sure.

    1. Am I still on This Island

      The only thing that may have changed from the above is the CBS contribution to the Fund, I do not think it has and have seen no information to suggest otherwise.

      1. Blobster

        How sure are you on the €128 million figure Island? I have no knowledge of what the figure might be except that I heard Patsy McGarry on the radio in the last few days (who I would imagine has a fair grasp of the cuurent state of affairs) saying that the current contribution from religious orders was circa €350 million out of an estimated €1.4 billion.

        1. Am I still on This Island

          Blobster 100% certain as that is what the legislation limited their contribution to and they have yet to even meet that figure never mind anything exceeding it.

        2. Conor

          €350 million was the initial projection of how much the total cost would be, but it was a ‘back a fag packet’ calculation.

          1. Am I still on This Island

            The religious order contribution was capped at 128Million and has not yet been meet. The figure of 350 is a complete farce and nonsense with no fact to support it

    2. Rob

      TD’s Simpl aren’ Interested; I have been lobbying on behalf of Survivors for 4 years. I even Sent a Petition Against Establishing the Statutory Fund . Which was Ignored, by Quinn and Kenny!!

  3. Liam

    Why bother standing up to the church when you can just dip you hands into taxpayers pockets?

  4. Turt Hell

    I think the standard line for making large institutions pay there way, is that they might decide to turn their backs on us and leave the country.

    so lets push ahead then

  5. The Dude

    Very well put by AmIStillOnThisIsland. The Michael Woods “deal” provided a good precedent for the financial institutions to later rape the country. In each instance there has been little or no accountability. Alas for any state: No accountability = No Credibility = No Legitimacy.

  6. Conor

    Utter nonsense. I’m not a Catholic and I’m no fan of the religious orders but the anti-Catholic bias of Broadsheet is gone to hysterical levels.

    Whether we like it or not (and I really don’t like it), the government of the day made a deal with the orders. Was it a sh*tty deal? Yes. Should the orders be chased for every penny they committed to pay? Yes. Is it appropriate for the government to turn around and say “actually, we don’t like that arrangement, we’re not going to honour it”? No, that is no way for a government to operate.

    Michael Woods made a horse’s ass of it but the religious orders didn’t break any laws in negotiating the best deal they could, there’s just no basis for thinking the State can suddenly withdraw its indemnity.

    And this sh*t that pops up in every BS post nowadays about Politician X being a Catholic and therefore can’t do his job is really getting old. We’re in a county where 85% of the people identify themselves as Catholic!

    Cop the f**k on.

    1. Am I still on This Island

      Conor, three points, the religious institutions have failed to comply with the agreement, not just marginally but spectacularly the CBS example shows they have contributed less than 10% of what they agreed to and it is now 10 years later. In my opinion that automatically voids the deal.

      Secondly the deal covers all cases including ones that were not known about at the time & cases that will happen in the future, so the Catholic Church knows no matter how it behaves its indemnity is limited.

      There has been a stream of Government TD’s on radio and TV the past 48 hours including the Taoiseach claiming there is nothing we can do which is a lie. The government could squash the legislation on the grounds that the Religious orders have failed to comply with the agreement and that the scale of the payments due was severely underestimated. This estimate was based on information furnished by the Religious orders which later turned out to be incomplete. The logic you are applying is flawed to use an example if there was abuse that occurred in religious order x in 2010 even though the Gov will have no part in the order or the institution the Tax payer is liable.

      1. Conor

        The level of payment is around 70-80% of the promised amount, as far as I know.

        There is nothing to repeal either, there was no legislative element to the deal, just a contract between the state and the orders, so if there are grounds for nullifying the contract, then fair enough. But I’d wager that the original deal didn’t set hard deadlines for payment either so the orders are probably not in breach of contract.

        And if, in 2010, there was abuse happening at a state-sanctioned facility run by a religious order, then yes, I would hold the State liable.

        1. Am I still on This Island

          Do you know something the Government don’t? Could you show them were the money is as the official figures are currently at the 35-40% mark

          1. Sido

            Thanks Ireland, for an interesting read.

            I would think that the church has attempted to void the contract by deliberately acting in bad faith.

          2. JoshN.

            The question is, why should there even be a separate deal for religious orders compared with us mortals?

            The argument is that the state should cover the payment for the victims, simply because they allowed the crimes to happen? Rubbish! That’s like staying the Irish Gouvernment is liable if somebody steals my car. The criminals should pay, Catholic or otherwise.

          1. Conor

            What does AMB mean?
            I know we’re a secular state, my only point re 85% catholics was that the post initially had a statement about Michael Woods being a strong Catholic, which I now see has been edited out.

    2. Bob

      I’m actually flabbergasted that you can’t understand what has happened, and dismiss it as some sort of anti-church bias.

      1. JoshN.

        Article 44-6 of the Constitution:

        “6° The property of any religious denomination or any educational institution shall not be diverted save for necessary works of public utility and on payment of compensation. ”

        This is very clearly a matter relating to compensation. As far as I can see it’s there in black and white, the state doen’t have to ask for the property at all, it’s false modesty.

  7. Am I still on This Island

    Wow I am flattered! The deal really is one of the worst deals in the history of the state right up there with the Bank Guarantee. It also includes all future unknown cases of abuse and any compensation that may arise.

    The Current Government with its massive majority could remove this protection first thing in the morning if they really wanted. So if Enda and Eamonn are serious about this and want to get it done they could. It was galling listing to ministers lining up last night to play the we can do nothing card when the reality is very different, what is worse not one single journalist has pulled them up on it? They are all too busy doing stories about Katy French and fluffy cats!

    1. Bangalore

      Just wondering. Have you notified any TDs of this? Im sure plenty would be receptive to raising this as a question in the house

      1. Am I still on This Island

        On a number of occasions including one who was interviewed last night and still claimed nothing I can do.

        1. Bangalore

          Were they just government or were they opposition. I ask because government ones can simply fob you off but opposition will be more likely to actually raise the issue. In my experience anyway

    1. Am I still on This Island

      Yes, the Dail could pass legislation in the morning to remove it, its constitutionality in relation to the 5th amendment to the constitution could be questioned, plenty of options. There is also the point that the religious orders have failed to meet their obligations. There are alternatives like passing a religious tax, remove the charity status of religious orders or legislation stating that the state will no longer Fund schools with a religious ethos.

      1. Conor

        A religious tax or removing funding for religious schools would be unconstiutional under Article 44.2

        1. Am I still on This Island

          Article 44.2.2 prohibits State endowment of religion while Article 44.2.3 prohibits the State from imposing any disabilities or making any discrimination on the ground of religious profession, belief or status.

          Nothing illegal about implanting a religious tax (You seem to think I am only talking about one religion I am not). Removing the funding again no constitutional issue if it is done for all religions which was my suggestion. There is nothing in the constitution that states that Religious schools must be funded by the state. In fact the constitution clearly indicates and was supported in a vote where 80% + agreed with it that we are a secular state.

          1. Conor

            But > 90% of schools are religous? So we withdraw funding for all of them? OK… listen, my kid goes to an Educate Together school so I’ve no grá for catholic schools, but come back to the real world.

            As for a religious would be unconstitutional under Article 44.2.6; “The property of any religious denomination or any educational institution shall not be diverted save for necessary works of public utility and on payment of compensation.”

  8. droid

    Henry the VIII had the right idea. Take their lands and sieze their assets, give them back whatever is left after they pay total compensation for their appalling crimes.

  9. Am I still on This Island

    Let’s make this as simple as we can

    Anyone who thinks the Religious institutions have meet their obligations in relation to the deal, That their actionis are acceptable & that the deal complies with their moral teaching and beliefs say AYE!

  10. GRWH

    I think it was Canada that played a blinder in this regard.

    The state paid restitution to the victims, and then it sued the church.

  11. Derval

    “Less than 70% of the monies owed by the Church has been paid, example the Christian Brothers have paid 4 Million of a total 42 owed.”
    What a strange statement!
    4 million is roughly 10% of 42 million
    Yes, 10%ish is less than 70%.
    Wouldn’t it have been just as valid to say –
    “Less than 100%, 90%, 80%, 70%, 37%, 87% and 15% of the monies owed by the Church has been paid.”

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