Deputy Rabbitte has asked me a question about the legal indemnity and I will answer it, but I wish to repeat what I stated yesterday. When I made the statement on behalf of the Government on 14 May 1999, I said that the Government's approach to this issue was to do the best for the victims in terms of redressing the wrong done to them. That was our purpose at all times and all the decisions we made along the way were to try to address an issue that had been ongoing for many decades and in which people had suffered abuse and received no compensation, redress or apology. That was what was involved.
As regards the legal indemnity which Deputy Rabbitte queried, it was given to the congregations and covers only those cases that could be heard by the redress board but where the victim has opted instead for the court hearing. Cases must be commenced within six years of the date of the indemnity, which was June 2002. I put that date on the record yesterday. The Department of Education and Science is of the view that the overwhelming majority of cases will go to the redress board rather than the courts. In the event that a congregation decides to contest a court case, the case falls outside the indemnity and the costs will fall to be met in accordance with the court's decisions.
The details of the legal indemnity took several months of discussions between lawyers representing the congregations and officials of the Department of Education and Science and of the Attorney General's Office. Discussions on this matter continued from early 2001 to October 2001. They broke down at that stage. As the Minister of State, Deputy Parlon, said last night, officials of the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Finance and the Attorney General's Office were involved up to October 2001. The discussions then broke down.
The former Minister, Deputy Woods, on behalf of the Cabinet, continued to try to get the discussions back on track. The meetings did not pick up again until March 2002 and, at that stage, the Department of Education and Science had its own legal representative working with Mr. Cox's office, which represented CORI, and the discussions continued.
When it came to the final stage, the Department of Finance and the Attorney General's Office were involved. Again it was done properly. It was driven by the then Minister for Education and Science because the institutions were his responsibility. We were trying to deal with enormous problems caused when the State asked religious institutions to care for children, a limited number of whom were, unfortunately, abused. That is why the State has an obligation to try to resolve the matter.