When we broke unexpectedly for lunch — I did not realise there would be a sos — I had made reference to the courage of Mr. Andrew Madden. We must praise the courage of all of the victims of institutional abuse for coming forward and describing to the Ryan commission the dreadful events suffered by them during their childhood. Parliament must acknowledge, as others have acknowledged, that the State abjectly failed them. Indeed, this Parliament did so also in the sense that past Members of this Parliament in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s appeared to either have no knowledge or no interest in the dreadful plight of those consigned to the residential institutions. We now have a duty to acknowledge that this is the people's Parliament. It is the Parliament of all of the people of this country, of all of those whose lives have been blighted by their experiences as so graphically depicted in the Ryan commission report.
The Government has an obligation to the survivors of abuse to address all of the issues that now must be dealt with. It is right that we implement all of the recommendations contained in the Ryan commission report, both those recommendations that directly relate to the survivors of the institutions and those that relate to the manner in which we today run our child care services.
The survivors of the institutions are entitled to justice. One of the important elements of the all-party motion before the House is that when this motion is passed we, as Members of the Oireachtas, across the Chamber on a united basis, acknowledge that crimes of a barbaric, sadistic, appalling nature have been committed against children in this country. Everything must be done to bring to justice those who perpetrated the barbaric physical and sexual abuse described in the Ryan commission report.
For too long the religious orders have not only attempted to evade their responsibility, but conspired in covering up the true extent of the abuse that took place. There is an absolute obligation on these religious orders. Much has been stated in the past two or three weeks about money matters, but there is an absolute obligation on the religious orders to make available to the Garda Síochána all files and papers they have relating to members of religious orders who are currently alive and who perpetrated the dreadful violence and sexual attacks that are the subject matter of this report.
For too many years the religious orders moved the perpetrators of physical and sexual violence from one part of the country to another and exported it across the world. Some of those who perpetrated violence physical and sexual attacks on the residents of institutions found themselves transferred to England, Newfoundland, Canada, Australia and America, and perpetrated similar appalling torture on children in other countries around the world. I do not believe the religious orders and congregations have adequately co-operated with the Garda Síochána in ensuring that those who perpetrated these offences were brought to justice, and they must do so.
It is stated in the motion before the House that an assistant Garda commissioner has been asked, presumably following appointment by the Garda Commissioner, to review the Ryan commission report and to consider what further action the Garda Síochána might take. I believe there are people who have suffered greatly who have information that they can give to the Garda which may now result in prosecutions, either that would not otherwise happen or of people previously identified who the DPP, without adequate information being available, determined should not be prosecuted.
There must be co-ordination in this area. If victims of abuse want to report to the Garda Síochána they should not be put in a position where they are visiting different Garda stations in different parts of the country dealing with persons, perhaps members of the Garda, who are not trained to deal with the circumstances that these people have experienced. There should be an assistant Garda commissioner not merely reviewing the Ryan commission report but co-ordinating a Garda task force to talk to and interview those who come forward and to co-ordinate the conduct of any further investigation that may be necessary, and to co-ordinate the obtaining from the religious orders of any information and documentation.
We know from the Ryan commission report that files were sent outside Ireland to Rome relating to a number of religious who engaged in the most despicable sexual violence against children. Those files went to Rome because in some instances ecclesiastical action was taken against these individuals, but reports were not made to the Garda and it is crucial that they are. Of course the support services the victims require must be put in place.
The motion passed in this House two weeks ago — we repeat it today — calling on the religious congregations to make a greater financial contribution is important because it gives the Taoiseach the moral authority of all Members of this House representing the people of this country in the conduct of his discussions with the religious orders. Like many outside this House, I am somewhat cynical still about the sincerity of the apologies being given. I say so from experience. I do not need to read the Ryan commission report to form such a conclusion.
My experience and that of a colleague in my law firm in representing victims of abuse has been, in dealing with allegations before the redress board, various religious orders, in particular the Christian Brothers, were in denial up to five days before the report was published. The Christian Brothers' response was that the congregation did not accept that systemic abuse took place. This was the order's standard response, until the Ryan commission report was published, in circumstances in which they had to know the abuse was systemic. The order had to know because it, on occasions, attempted to deal with some of its members who misbehaved but the practice was to transfer them to somewhere else where they continued to misbehave. It was almost impossible not to know how systemic were the violence and sexual perversions in which the individuals were engaged, using children as objects, and their failure to recognise the children's humanity.
I remain cynical about what is being stated by the orders and congregations on their additional contributions. Their contributions should comprise 50% to the redress payments being made to victims of abuse. There should be an additional financial contribution to the trust fund under discussion. The congregations' statement following their meeting with the Taoiseach is noteworthy, as it gave no commitment towards contributing a cent extra to the redress fund. The language used was careful. Reporting on it, The Irish Times stated:
The Congregations, who had an initial meeting with an Taoiseach today, indicated their willingness to make financial and other contributions towards a broad range of measures, designed to alleviate the hurt caused to people who were abused in their care. The Congregations will contribute towards a trust, proposed by an Taoiseach, and a process has now commenced to establish how this can be achieved.
They should contribute to a broad range of measures to assist the victims, but the last thing they should do is get involved in the trust in any shape or form.