“A Blank Cheque”


From top: Dr Michael Woods (right) with former Taoiseach Brian Cowen (left) and current FF leader Micheál Martín at a FF think-in in 2009; Senator Michael McDowell

Next Thursday, at 10.15pm.

RTÉ One will broadcast a new documentary Rome V Republic, presented by senator, barrister and former Attorney General Michael McDowell.

It will recall the June 2002 deal between Fianna Fáil and 18 religious orders, which awarded the orders indemnity against all legal claims if they paid €128m in cash and property.

The agreement was made by Dr Michael Woods, a devout Catholic, on behalf of Fianna Fail, before the 2002 General Election and on his last day in office.

Cabinet approval was never sought for the deal  and it was also never run past the Attorney General of the day [Michael McDowell].

At the time of the deal, the total liability to survivors was estimated at €300m even though no detailed analysis was carried out by any government department.

As of 2017, the total liability was estimated at €1.5bn.

It’s been previously reported that Mr McDowell and his staff were excluded from two meetings between the State and the orders in November 2001 and January 2002.

Mr Woods reportedly later defended this move, saying:

“The legal people simply couldn’t have attended – it was a no-go area for them – they had fallen out with the religious.”

“My religion was an asset. They knew me and they knew my work. I can’t say someone else wouldn’t have been able to do the same. That said, they would have known me well.”

Today, The Irish Times reports Mr McDowell as saying:

“The simple fact of the matter is that the result was that the State effectively signed a blank cheque which cost us €1.4 billion in the end, in exchange for a promise of a contribution of €128 million from the religious orders.”

Two years ago, Seán O’Rourke, on RTÉ Radio One, interviewed the current leader of Fianna Fáil Mícheál Martin about the deal – asking if the Government should revisit the deal considering what had then emerged about the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co Galway.

Mr Martin said:

The church would never had been coming up with €1.5billion and the legal advice at the time, and I remember speaking to the late [Fianna Fáil] Rory Brady who was the Attorney General [sic], he was adamant that the State would always, because of its involvement, from the inspectorial regime at the time in industrial schools – it was culpable.”

Religious congregations indemnity deal was ‘a blank cheque’, says Michael McDowell (Patsy McGarry, The Irish Times)

Previously: Spotting The Woods For The Trees

Indemnity And The Religious

10 thoughts on ““A Blank Cheque”

  1. Barry the Hatchet

    It is definitely accurate to say that the State has a liability to the abused persons, having allowed what happened to continue. But it is utterly farcical to say, or to intimate, that the religious organisations themselves would not have had any liability. Legally, that is a complete nonsense.

  2. Paulus

    I’m glad you remembered the “Dr” for Michael Woods – he was notoriously fussy about that; and well able to combine vanity with profound Catholicism. Not that that’s unusual.
    McDowell may be a bit of a pain, but if he succeeds in (re)highlighting this travesty. . . I’ll have a lot of respect for him.

  3. phil

    Grrrr , no cabinet approval , IMO , is grounds to tear up the deal , Take the hospitals from them and we can call it quits ….

        1. Gabby

          If the government ‘took’ all the hospitals and schools tomorrow, I see two consequences: 1. None of these buildings would be turned into cash to contribute more to the €1.4 billion compensation bill. 2. An Irish government would not immediately cope with the demographic surges in some urban areas which have experienced an influx of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants from various parts of Ireland. My impression is that politicians are happy for voters to blame the Catholic denominational schools instead of governments for failure to deal with schooling shortages in areas under demographic pressure.

  4. Joe Small

    I’d love to see an audit of all the religious land – which was often originally donated to the Catholic church by loyal Catholics in the first place – which was sold for property development. I understand that the Catholic church has fought tooth and nail to avoid paying a penny to the State.

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