A religious order that owes millions of euros in compensation for child abuse will retain ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital after it is built with more than €200 million of taxpayers’ money.
The new hospital will be built on the Elm Park site at St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin. St Vincent’s Healthcare Group is run and owned by the Sisters of Charity, which has paid only €2 million of the €5 million it offered to contribute in reparations to abuse victims. Its most recent payment was in 2013.
The religious order will own the maternity hospital as well as a new independent company that has been established to guarantee corporate governance, but the HSE has said that its interests will be protected once construction is completed.
The HSE said the land at the St Vincent’s campus was being made available for the new hospital at no cost to the state and that “appropriate security arrangements” would be put in place to protect state interests.
The grounds of the former Bon Secours mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway; Galway West independent TD Catherine Connolly
You may recall how, during Leaders’ Questions on March 8, Independent TD Catherine Connolly, of Galway West, asked about a second interim report from the Commission into Mother and Baby Homes which was given to the Minister for Children Katherine Zappone last September.
This interim report was to identify any matters that the commission felt warranted further investigation as part of the commission’s work.
Ms Connolly asked Taoiseach Enda Kenny:
“I’m asking you now to confirm, why it hasn’t been published? Eight months later? What’s in it that’s so frightening? What’s in it that prevents it being published?”
Further to this…
Fiach Kelly, in The Irish Times, reports this morning that the indemnity agreement signed in 2002 between the then Minister for Education Michael Woods and 18 religious congregations – which served to cap the orders’ liability – may be extended to include children abused in mother and baby homes.
Just recently, the Comptroller and Auditor General found that, as of the end of 2015, the congregations had paid just 13% of the total compensation bill which, at that point, amounted to €1.5billion.
Mr Kelly writes:
The existing redress scheme for victims of residential child abuse could be reopened to cover those abused as children in mother and baby homes, an unpublished report to the Government has recommended.
The proposal is contained in the second interim report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, The Irish Times has learned. It has caused alarm in Government circles, due to the cost of the existing scheme.
It says the redress scheme established in 2002 could be used again to provide compensation for those who were abused as children in mother and baby homes.
…Ms Zappone has been repeatedly pressed in the Dáil for the reason for the delay in publishing the second interim report, which she received last autumn.
A briefing on it was given to Cabinet in the autumn, but a number of Ministers could not remember a redress scheme being discussed. Well-informed sources said the delay in its publication was due to the controversial nature of the proposed form of redress.
One source suggested that it may never be published if there had not been public outcry over the commission’s confirmation last month of the discovery of the remains of babies and infants at the site of a former mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway. However it is now expected to be published next week.
Further to journalist Conor Ryan’s story in this morning’s Irish Examiner – in which he revealed for the first time correspondence between religious orders and the State in relation to the indemnity deal and how the Sisters of Mercy transferred 66 schools, worth €412million to a religious trust called Ceist – law lecturer at Kent Law School Mairéad Enright, above, has written her thoughts on the matter.
In Human Rights in Ireland blog, she writes:
“The question of how church institutions maintain control of property which might otherwise be the subject of compensation paid on litigation, or which might come within the ambit of redress schemes, has taken on significant weight in other jurisdictions.
“The Judge held that any interference with the trust would compromise the constitutional protection for free expression of religion. The former Archbishop, now Cardinal Dolan, maintains that the transfer of this enormous sum was not an attempt to avoid compensation claims.
“In New South Wales and in Victoria [Australia] campaigners have advocated reform of the Roman Catholic Church Trust Property Act, which the Catholic Church has used to avoid paying compensation in sexual abuse claims. The church has successfully argued, using the so-called ‘Ellis defence‘ – that diocesan statutory property trusts cannot be sued except on property claims. Victims must rely on mediation with dioceses to obtain redress under the controversial ‘Towards Healing‘ scheme and this raises controversial issues of oversight and bargaining power, similar to those which arise on settlement of a lawsuit. (These are just the tactics than can be used to avoid paying out on successful claims. There are other means to avoid claims altogether – statutes of limitation, charitable immunity, and bishops’ invocation of the doctrine of corporation sole among them). To get the full story on redress, we may need to look far beyond the indemnity agreement and its successors.”