Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill 2012: Committee and Remaining Stages

I welcome the Minister for Education and Skills to the House.

Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
SECTION 3

Amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, and 7 are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 7, subsection (1), lines 19 to 22, to delete paragraphs (a) and (b) and substitute the following:

"(a) a person who was a former resident of a scheduled institution and who was eligible but did not apply under subsection (2) of the Act of 2002;

(b) a person who successfully obtained or obtains an award from a court or a settlement in respect of an action arising out of any circumstances which gave rise to the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002, and which proves they meet the interpretation of abuse as defined under section 1 of the Act of 2002, provided that he or she provides to the Board—

(i) proof of his or her identity,

(ii) that he or she was resident in an institution during his or her childhood, and that he or she was injured while so resident and that injury is consistent with any abuse that is alleged to have occurred while so resident.".

This amendment deals with the eligibility criteria. As I remarked on Second Stage, the eligibility criteria, as they stand, severely limit the ability of those who have a right to avail of statutory fund to seek recompense. It fails to take into consideration survivors who, for many reasons, may have been unaware or unable to seek recompense from the redress board. It is clear from speaking to many of the survivors who went through the residential abuse redress process that the scheme should have been extended.

There are many reasons that victims of abuse felt unable or unwilling to apply to the redress board but it is wrong for them to be penalised for not meeting a deadline. Many of the people I have spoken to were too traumatised by their experiences in the institutions. Understandably, they had no wish to reopen the experience or to relive the past. Some people who went through the process regretted it and they were not impressed with the way they were treated. It is wrong that those only eligible for assistance from the fund should be former residents who were offered awards from the Residential Institutions Redress Board or who received awards pursuant to court actions and who would otherwise have received awards from the board.

I referred to the organisation Right of Place on Second Stage. It has stated that at least 150,000 children and teenagers went through orphanages, industrial schools and centres for young offenders. Many of these suffered abuse at the hands of religious orders and others in charge of their care. The organisation estimates that, of that number, 100,000 left Ireland and at least half are believed to have travelled to the USA. Only a fraction of this group are believed to have been aware of the existence of the redress board. This is the rationale behind amendment No. 1 and I urge the Minister to consider it. I realise he did not accept the amendment on Committee Stage in the Dáil but he might consider it now.

Our amendment is similar to Senator Reilly's if somewhat more restrictive. I raised this issue yesterday on Second Stage. I share the concern that the Bill excludes people who did not avail of the redress scheme. There were many reasons people did not do so. Some people were homeless or out of the country and, despite the best efforts of the present and previous Governments, may have been unaware of the scheme or not in a position to apply before the deadline.

Amendment No. 2 would restrict access to the services available under the fund to those who would have been eligible to apply under the 2002 Act but did not do so. I appreciate the point made by the Minister yesterday that the amount of money available is limited and that he wants it to have as strong an impact as possible on those who are eligible and not to spread resources too thinly. However, by restricting eligibility to those who would have been eligible in 2002, which is not an overly inclusive group, we can have an impact and ensure that those who are most vulnerable, those who may not have had an opportunity to apply previously, can avail of the fund.

Amendment No. 3 refers to the provision of education services for relatives of survivors. While the fund will provide direct services for survivors themselves, in recent years relatives of survivors have been availing of education supports. This is a way for many of the survivors to pass on a little bit of happiness to their children or grandchildren and to give them opportunities they did not have themselves, and it should continue. I urge the Minister to accept this amendment.

Amendment No. 7 seeks to ensure that services available through the fund are not means-tested. It is unfair, particularly considering the horrific abuse they suffered, that people be subjected to unnecessary means-testing. Payment should be available to all survivors as a real and genuine, albeit minor and insufficient, recompense, regardless of the financial position they achieve later in life. We must ensure that all survivors are able to avail of the fund and are not subjected to an unfair means test.

I welcome the opportunity to support some of these amendments, which I do with pleasure, particularly amendment No. 1. There seems to be a cogent case for supporting this amendment, particularly paragraph (a), which would apply to “a person who was a former resident of a scheduled institution and who was eligible but did not apply under subsection (2) of the Act of 2002”. This seems to be similar to the question of the Statute of Limitations. In a number of recent cases in the Supreme Court and other courts the Statute of Limitations has been set aside, to a certain extent, in order to provide constitutional justice even though it was not specifically provided for in law and might appear to have been barred.

Those affected by this amendment may well be people who did not apply because of ignorance, damage, trauma or whatever. If they are able to apply now I do not think it would create an enormous additional burden on the Exchequer. Therefore, I urge the Minister to consider this paragraph in particular.

I have no particular difficulty with the amendment that refers to the provision of education services. However, a number of people who have corresponded with me have such a difficulty. There are differing views on this issue. Survivors are not a homogeneous group of people. They are all individuals who have suffered in different ways and take different approaches to the situation. Some of them have told me they find this measure insulting. Yesterday, a gentleman spoke to me on the telephone for half an hour. He had simply left his name and a message that he wished to speak about abuse, and I did not know what to expect when I rang him back. He was a highly intelligent, decent, balanced man. He said he was in his late 60s, his wife had been a tremendous support to him and he did not need education and did not want it. He said he felt slightly humiliated that this is being offered to him as an option. This may not be true of other people, whether younger or older. When I taught in Trinity College one of the great joys was derived from mature students who came with an experience of life, but not everyone wants education.

Then there is the question of children and grandchildren. I am not an expert in this area and I may be taking an unpopular position on this. I am thinking of the amounts of money involved and directing it at the most vulnerable people. I would imagine the impact diminishes on a generational basis. I could be incorrect. There may be different effects for grandchildren. I would push this proposal less forcefully.

Since we are dealing with people's human rights, which include the right to retribution, I take this opportunity to raise a matter with the Minister. I have raised this matter on numerous occasions and have never had a satisfactory answer. I find it an appalling breach of human rights that there is an exhibition of human bodies in the former Rotunda building in Dublin. I have been told by Falun Gong that these may be the bodies of victims of judicial execution in China. No permission was granted for their bodies to be exhibited and this is a massive violation of human rights. I know this is not directly germane to the Bill but I raise the matter so that the Minister will be aware of it. The exhibition is advertised as an educational thing byThe Irish Times, CIE, RTE and others without any concern for the human rights of those whose bodies are displayed.

I speak on behalf of Senator John D'Arcy in his absence.

Having listened to survivors and read their e-mails and other correspondence, I ask the Minister if there is room for those who did not avail of the redress scheme on time to apply now. They also have suffered pain. There are many reasons for their failure to apply. One reason could be a lack of confidence, empowerment, knowledge or education. The self-esteem of a survivor of abuse, or of torture as defined by the United Nations, will be on the floor. Many people who have come to my office have suffered flashbacks all their lives and have difficulty forming relationships. Many of them have, admirably, rebuilt their lives, with the help of others. Given those extenuating circumstances, I ask the Minister if there is room for those who did not avail of the scheme on time. Let us consider the case of a person who is excluded from applying, goes on to take a civil case and receives a favourable judgment. Would such a person have access, retrospectively, to the redress board?

Based on my reading and listening, the financial cost is only one of the concerns of survivors. Their big concern is with healing; they consider that redress should help them heal. They really want to see justice done, and that may be in the form of prosecutions. That element of healing is important. If we exclude from the scheme people who were genuinely the subject of abuse and torture, we are likely to make their healing much harder. Many of these survivors are elderly. What humaneness can we offer them?

I concur with Senator Norris with regard to the provision of education. I know many survivors of abuse who have grown from what they suffered and gained strength. They have gone on to do well for themselves because they were determined not to let the system drag them down. I know many survivors who have been very well educated since. They do not need this money now. Money must be directed towards the most vulnerable and those who most need it. The Minister indicated yesterday that he may widen the scope of the fund in due course, if any funds are left over. That would be most welcome. If there are sufficient moneys remaining once the eligible applicants have been dealt with, the fund should be opened up to those who failed to apply in 2002.

I apologise to the Minister for being unable to attend the Second Stage debate yesterday. I thank him for his substantive engagement with Members in this and the other House on the details of the Bill. While I am sympathetic to the amendments we are discussing, I also acknowledge the political reality the Minister is facing and the need to progress the legislation. A great deal of good will come from the passing of the Bill as it is. We should not, however, see it as the end of the road when it comes to dealing with this problem. The debate we have had could be the beginning of a journey for those people who are excluded from the current process. I note the Minister's indication yesterday that should extra moneys be available, he will consider the possibility of broadening the eligibility criteria. We must, as part of the healing process to which Senator Fidelma Healy Eames referred, seek to reach out to people who are suffering and who, for one reason or another, did not apply to the original redress scheme and are therefore ineligible for assistance under the fund.

These amendments are welcome in that they allow us an opportunity to debate the issues. At the same time, we are anxious to have the legislation in place without delay. In that context, I ask the Minister to repeat as firmly as he can that the door is not shut on those persons who are excluded from the system. As Senators Marie Moloney and David Norris observed, not everybody will wish to seek assistance and we cannot categorise everybody as the same. We live in a marvellously diverse world where different people seek different solutions. Nevertheless, we have received strong written representations, e-mails and telephone calls from people who are genuinely hurt more than angry and are looking for redress and support. The signal should go out from the debate today that we are not shutting down the prospect of support for these people. While we are providing assistance to certain people within certain categories, we recognise that there may be others who remain excluded and we will seek to assist them as soon as possible. I know the Minister is sympathetic to people in that position and will do his best to assist them. Those who have lived without hope for most of their lives should be given some degree of optimism for the future.

It is said that justice delayed is justice denied. We would all agree that in the case of victims of abuse in residential institutions, justice has been delayed for a long time. In that context, it would be an aberration if we were to deny people justice on the basis of their failure to meet a designated time constraint. I accept that this is not the Minister's intention, but I am not quite sure whether the difficulty is largely economic or mostly legal, nor can I quantify the sums of money involved. We are dealing with an exceptional situation and it adds to the trauma for victims if they are to be denied justice on the basis of a failure to adhere to an arbitrary timeframe. Their trauma will continue until they go into the grave. The Minister is an exceptionally compassionate person and I am sure he will give due consideration to this aspect of the situation he is seeking to address.

I welcome the Minister to the House. Like Senator Paul Bradford, I was not in a position to attend yesterday's comprehensive Second Stage debate, in which the Minister and others spoke movingly about the plight of those persons whose difficulties the Bill seeks to address. To echo Senator Marie Moloney, I appreciate the sentiment behind these amendments while also recognising that different abuse survivors have different needs. I have had the privilege of representing some of those survivors before the Residential Institutions Redress Board in the past. As a result, I have some small appreciation of the enormous level of harm and damage caused to so many people who were sent to these institutions as children. An immense wrong was done to them by the State, for which the Minister and others have issued an apology. The Murphy and Ryan reports have given us all an indication of the extent of the abuse suffered.

The key imperative, as Senator Paul Bradford pointed out, is to get the Bill through the Oireachtas and thus ensure that another component in the series of measures the State is offering survivors by way of redress is put in place. As colleagues pointed out, the Minister has indicated in both Houses that the issue of who is eligible to apply for assistance can be reviewed following the establishment of the statutory fund, particularly in the event that applications do not result in significant expenditure. That assurance from the Minister should meet the concerns of the Senators who brought forward these amendments. We all appreciate that there are people who might have been eligible but were not previously in a position to apply. The Minister's commitment to review the situation will go some way towards meeting their needs. As I said, the Bill is just one of a series of measures — long overdue measures — the State has put in place. They are sorely needed in order to offer some type of redress for the immense hurt and abuse suffered by so many people.

These proposals seek to widen eligibility for the fund. Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 propose that former residents who would have been eligible for an award from the redress board had they applied should be eligible to apply to the fund. Anybody who receives a court award or settlement in respect of an action arising out of circumstances which could give rise to an application to the redress board is eligible to apply to the fund. The effects of amendments Nos. 3 and 7 would be to include family members of former residents in the case of educational services.

The Bill's primary purpose is to establish a statutory fund to support the needs of survivors, in keeping with the all-party motion that was unanimously agreed by Dáil Éireann in 2009 in the aftermath of the publication of the Ryan report. As I said yesterday on Second Stage, a maximum of €110 million will be available for the fund and it is estimated that there will be some 15,000 potential beneficiaries, that being the number who have received redress board or court awards. The Government has deliberately proposed this approach. If the fund were to investigate applications to establish residence and injury consistent with alleged abuse, as would be required if the amendments were accepted, then a considerable investigative structure similar to the Residential Institutions Redress Board would be required, thus expanding the role of the statutory fund and deflecting it from its intended focus.

The statutory fund is not designed or intended to consider issues such as abuse and will only take applications from those who have already received an award, either from the courts or the redress board. These amendments seek to entitle those who would have received awards had they applied to the redress board. The difficulty is that requiring the fund to examine such applications would inevitably occasion considerable costs. Furthermore, having regard to the fact that more than 900 applications to the redress board were withdrawn, refused or resulted in no award, generally on the basis that the person was not resident in the scheduled institution, there would likely also be applications to the fund that would ultimately prove ineligible. The Bill specifically allows the redress board to advise the fund of those who received awards, thus enabling the fund to confirm applicants' entitlements.

Extensive efforts were made to facilitate claims to the redress board. It undertook press, television and radio advertising campaigns and placed some 1,500 advertisements. It held information days throughout the United Kingdom in 2004 and distributed 15,000 leaflets to the network of Irish societies. It also placed advertisements in United Kingdom newspapers and in Irish publications in the United States and Australia. The initial closing date for receipt of applications was 2005, some three years after the board was established. The board continued to accept late applications in exceptional circumstances up until September of last year, when its power to accept such applications ceased. By that time it had received 2,766 late submissions. By the end of March of this year it had allowed 1,136 of these, disallowed 214 and had a further 1,256 to consider. Any former resident who did not apply to the redress board is entitled to avail of the counselling and family-tracing services available.

Extending entitlement to children and grandchildren of former residents who received awards from the redress board to educational services from the fund, as is proposed in amendments Nos. 3 and 7, would broaden the scope of the fund beyond that which is intended. As has been acknowledged, there is no unanimity on this proposal across the survivor community itself. I am aware that relatives of former residents were eligible to receive support for the Education Finance Board and I acknowledge that the latter has done excellent work in the context of distributing the €12.7 million provided by the religious congregations under the 2002 indemnity agreement. However, it was always clear that this particular fund would run out and we are now almost at that point. While I appreciate the sentiments expressed by Senators regarding the range of eligibility issues, I urge them to see the logic of the Government's position on this matter.

In view of comments by Members of the Lower House in respect of concerns expressed by some groups representing former residents and also by a number of congregations, I have committed to review the operation of the fund in two years' time. The eligibility issue could be reconsidered in the event that applications to the fund do not result in significant expenditure. While I note the arguments made in support of these amendments by the various Senators, I firmly believe that it is best to proceed on the basis proposed in the Bill. I must, therefore, oppose the amendments.

As I indicated on Second Stage, it is my intention to ask the new board, of which four members will either be survivors or representatives of survivors, when is appointed, to conduct its business in such a way that it will monitor its own decisions and own actions. This will ensure that at the end of the two-year period we will be able to take stock and see where we stand in respect of what has actually happened. It will not simply be a case of pressing the review button in two years time. The board will be engaging in an ongoing monitoring process so that at the end of the two-year period we will be in a position to make a quick decision on whether we should respond in respect of the matters to which the amendments relate. For the time being, however, I am not in a position to accept the amendments.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I remain of the opinion that restricting the fund only to those who would have been eligible to apply to the Residential Institutions Redress Board is the wrong move, particularly as some of the most vulnerable people will be excluded. Some of the survivor groups have made representations to me in this regard. The Minister indicated that there were 900 ineligible or withdrawn applications. He is now predicting that it is likely there will be 15,000 successful applications by the time the board has completed its work and that the number of unsuccessful applications stands at only 6%. The fact 94% of these 15,000 applications were successful is no reason to prevent those who did not apply to the board in the first instance from being considered for services under the Bill.

The Minister has responded in a very reasoned way and has left the door partially open for some amelioration of the situation further down the line when reports, etc., are received. The figure of 15,000 is truly shocking, particularly in the context of the fact that the State has acknowledged that 94% of these people's rights were violated in this horrendous way. I hope there is no possibility of this ever happening again. It obviously cannot happen again on this scale but I hope it will never happen at all. In 1992 or thereabouts I introduced the guardianad litem clause, which is intended to be of assistance in instances where the safety of children is threatened. Unfortunately, proper resources have not been provided in order to ensure the implementation of this clause. Had such resources been provided, much of what happened in the Roscommon incest case, for example, might have been avoided. I ask the Minister to impress upon his colleagues in government that if we are serious with regard to ensuring that this does not happen again — even in the context of a small number of very severe cases — then proper resources must be provided in order to implement initiatives such as the guardian ad litem programme.

I thank the Minister for his reply. When speaking to an amendment he tabled in the Dáil, my colleague, Deputy Crowe, highlighted the case of a woman who spent 19 years in an institution in Galway. She was supposed to be released on her 16th birthday but was kept in that institution until she reached the age of 21. When she brought her case to the High Court it lasted for six or seven years and was eventually thrown out due to inordinate delays in having it heard. When she went before the redress board she was informed that there was no case to answer because she had gone to the High Court in the first instance. How could that be right?

In the context of the eligibility criteria, the Minister has committed to holding a review after two years. As Senator Bradford inquired, how will we be in a position to know for sure that the door will not be fully closed? Will the review focus merely on the expenditure of the moneys in the fund or will it also include the eligibility criteria? If a significant proportion of the moneys in the fund have been expended, will the Minister rule out a review of the eligibility criteria? In such circumstances, what will happen to those considered ineligible to apply?

The Minister referred to 15,000 potential beneficiaries. Will he comment on whether the money from the fund will be apportioned equally among these people? Senator Norris stated that 15,000 is a huge figure and Senator Power indicated that the number of those considered ineligible is a small, but significant, proportion of this. The past 20 years have been marked by those who have been abused narrating their stories. I was shocked by something I learned at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection yesterday, namely, that some 40,000 of those who are teaching in schools are not Garda vetted. All new entrants to teaching are vetted by the Garda but long-standing members of the profession have not yet been vetted.

There is a need to ensure that there will be no recurrence of the abuse to which the legislation relates. I accept that there is an issue of resources.

The Senator is straying from the subject matter of the amendment.

The Senator's comments would be more appropriate to a debate on the section.

Will the Minister indicate how we might avoid a situation where there could be a need to establish another redress board 20 years from now as a result of the fact that sufficient Garda vetting is not being carried out?

I thank the Senators for their comments. For their own reasons, 15,000 people chose to present their cases to the redress board. The latter conceded that 94% of these individuals had valid cases and paid out compensation in varying amounts. I understand that the average amount paid was of the order of €60,000 plus. This was compensation for damage done — as a result of negligence on the part of the State — by the people who operated the residential institutions. We engaged in a comprehensive debate on this matter on Second Stage. However, there is a need to separate what I have just outlined from what we are doing here in the context of the recommendations in the Ryan report relating to assisting people to adjust to their own lives. What is at issue here is not additional compensation,per se, but rather a fund of €110 million. We will be able to collect this money from various religious congregations and others who have given commitments in that regard. However, as I indicated in reply to Second Stage, there are technical difficulties relating to the charitable status of many of the institutions involved and it will not be possible, therefore, to collect the money until the fund is legally established. Hopefully, that money will be collected in full. As I indicated yesterday, any money collected above €110 million will be dedicated to the children’s hospital. Senator Norris asked questions, which were echoed by others, as to whether abuse could happen again. I will come to the vetting question in a moment. The Government, more than anyone else, has taken upon itself the responsibility of introducing a children’s protection amendment to the Constitution. The House can have no doubt whatsoever about how difficult it will be when we begin to debate it because, in effect, to assert the rights of children in a minority of cases — that in Roscommon comes to mind in that regard — we will be enabling agents of the State to take away powers currently enjoyed by parents. That will be portrayed, perhaps even by some voices in this House, as an attack on the institution of the family. We should not expect a bed of roses when the debate begins. I suspect that some of the reasonable voices that articulate concerns at present will march to a different tune. I hope I am wrong but I am under no illusions about what will happen. One can only think back to the mother and child scheme as to how raucous voices can become and how reasonable arguments can get distorted.

I am aware of the difficulty with the Garda vetting procedure, which is not germane to the issue but has been raised. We are talking to the Teaching Council and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform about removing the employment control framework signed up to by Fianna Fáil in the previous Government in the agreement with the troika. We are not masters of our own destiny. The Teaching Council has substantial reserves of money and could afford to pay staff to do the work. In excess of 14,000 teachers are not properly vetted at the moment but we hope to be able to address the issue.

I am very taken by what the Minister said. First, I commend him for the information he provided for the House in his Second Stage speech yesterday where he made it clear that he was not accepting at face value the offer of property by various religious institutions because the value had been inflated. This is a terrible situation and the State must be judicious in ensuring that it does not accept the valuation of one party to the deal. The property concerned must be independently assessed and we must get value for money. There is no point in the religious institutions offering land or buildings that are of no value and can serve no purpose for the people who need them. Redress is required. I strongly commend the Minister in that regard. I believe this House will unanimously support him.

Where there may be difficulty is with the other issue he has raised, which I am very glad he did, namely, the referendum on the rights of the child. I am very sorry to say——

We are not broadening the debate at this stage. We are dealing with amendments.

I am replying to what the Minister said.

We are dealing with amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, and 7. I am not allowing the Senator to respond to what the Minister said.

I will conclude on this point.

We will have ample time to discuss the referendum when it arises.

I was one of those who strongly supported the Stay Safe programme on which precisely these issues were raised. It was the same in the Roscommon incest case where it was suggested that the family was being threatened by the measures that would protect children.

The Senator must conclude.

If that happens I will be one of those voices strongly supporting the Minister.

I wish to raise two issues in response to what the Minister said. I made the point yesterday about Garda vetting and the fact that we have still not dealt with the existing teachers. As the Minister is fully aware, while the Government is committed to overall targets under the EU-IMF framework, there is discretion within the targets and it is unfair to claim that we cannot act in an area as important as Garda vetting because of the EU-IMF deal. We tend not to be party political in this House. That point is not true and it is unfair to make it.

The Senator should speak to the amendment.

I must respond to the Minister's point. It was a party political remark and, with respect to the Minister, we tend not to behave in that way in this House. The Minister and I have a good working relationship in this House and I thought the point should be made. He is aware that there is flexibility and it is important that action is taken.

To return to the narrower concept of the Bill, the Minister indicated that all of the contributions have still not come forward. We only have €20 million of the overall amount required for the statutory fund. What is the timescale for the establishment of the statutory board and how will it proceed? Will the board proceed to work with the money it has or will it be delayed while it is waiting for the congregations to do the right thing and come up with the rest of the money? Can the Minister provide clarification on the issue because survivors are becoming increasingly elderly and it is important that the work get under way as soon as possible?

I have not spoken yet but I have listened carefully to everything that has been said this morning. I can understand the Minister's explanations on several amendments but I will support amendment No. 1. This House must send a signal. I do not expect the amendment to be accepted but we should send a signal that we are opening wider for those reasons.

Through my previous role with the Children's Rights Alliance and in my current role I have had the privilege to meet many survivors, some of whom have sought redress and others who have not for individual and unique reasons. One thing that many survivors have said to me, which gave me huge strength in particular in my previous role in the Children's Rights Alliance, was that they believe a true monument to their abuse would be to strengthen children's rights in the Constitution and for the people of this country to say "Yes" that children have rights.

We are not discussing the matter in the context of the amendments.

I thank the Senators for their clarification on these points. I have listened to what they said and all I can say in response to the proposal is that I will review the measure in two years' time. We will respond to it and, if necessary, I will come back to this House and report on the issue.

It is my intention to set up the board in September. I will call for public expressions of interest for participation on the board. We hope to have the board up and running by the end of September.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Committee divided: Tá, 22; Níl, 13.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O’Keeffe, Susan.
  • O’Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Whelan, John.

Níl

  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Susan O’Keeffe; Níl, Senators David Cullinane and Kathryn Reilly.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 7, subsection (1), between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

"(c) former residents who would have been eligible to receive an award under the Act of 2002 but who failed to apply under the Act of 2002.”.

Amendment put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 13; Níl, 22.

  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O’Keeffe, Susan.
  • O’Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Whelan, John.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paschal Mooney and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Susan O’Keeffe.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 7, subsection (2), line 24, after "section (1)(a)” to insert the following:

", save where such an award allowed/allows for a child of a former resident to avail of that which applies insection 8(1)(c), such child of a former resident shall continue to be eligible to avail of that approved service which applies in section 8 (1)(c)”.

Amendment put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 11; Níl, 23.

  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O’Keeffe, Susan.
  • O’Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paschal Mooney and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Susan O’Keeffe.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 4 in the name of Senator Reilly is out of order.

Amendment No. 4 not moved.
Section 3 agreed to.
Sections 4 to 6, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 7

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 8, subsection (1)(a), between lines 41 and 42, to insert the following:

"(i) make arrangements with persons, whether or not they are resident in the State, for the provision of an approved one off payment from the Fund, if requested,".

This amendment relates to the core question of including all residents who believe they are entitled to redress. It sets out a mechanism by which their claims can be assessed in a fair way. It is understandable that some of the residents have been reluctant to engage for many reasons. Certain survivors need every encouragement to come forward with confidence. This amendment refers to functions of the board and its members, four of whom, in addition to the chairperson, should be empowered to make an assessment of a person's application should that person apply for assistance under statutory fund, regardless of whether they have received an award in the past from the redress board.

One of the reasons for not widening the eligibility criteria was that people who had applied unsuccessfully to the redress board could apply again for assistance from the statutory fund. There wording of this amendment states——

Is the Senator speaking to amendment No. 5? We are dealing with amendment No. 5.

This amendment is to expand the provision in the Bill for the awarding of compensation and support. It would provide for a one-off lump sum payment that would allow survivors the opportunity to spend their moneys in whatever way they see fit. Consideration could be given to providing a credit system that allows compensation to be paid directly to the children of survivors.

Serious concerns have been raised relating to accessing services. This process has been fraught with difficulties and in the past it has been overly-bureaucratic and stressful for applicants. Many of the services on offer are already available and access to education would have limited benefits, as some Senators remarked. Senator Norris referred to concerns about the limited benefit of education to some survivors of a certain age profile. This is the rationale behind the amendment.

The proposal in amendment No. 5 that a one-off payment be made from the fund is not acceptable given that there is no apparent linkage between the making of such a payment and the needs of former residents. As I stated on Second Stage, the purpose of the fund is not to be a form of additional compensation. That issue is a matter for the redress board. The function of the fund is, as advocated in the original motion passed by Dáil Éireann in 2009, intended for the support of victims of abuse.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 6 and 10 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 10, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following subsection:

"(8) (a) The Board shall make provision for the setting up of an assessment panel consisting of four members of the Board, including the participation of the Chairperson, to examine applications to the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund, made by residents of former scheduled institutions who did not make an application under the Act of 2002 or who will have had a court determination made in an action arising out of their residency within a scheduled institution.

(b) The above assessment panel shall have the power to recommend to the Board the inclusion of former residents of scheduled institutions who qualify under section 7(1) of the Act of 2002, to make awards in accordance with this Act which are fair and reasonable having regard to the unique circumstances of each applicant.”.

I referred to this issue earlier and will not go over the ground too much again. The wording proposes that the panel would only examine applications from people who had not applied to the redress board. Anyone who had been turned down after applying to the redress board would, therefore, be ineligible to apply for assistance from the statutory fund. The conferring of the powers to assess applications on a sub-committee of the board would be a cost-effective and efficient way of examining applicants seeking assistance under the statutory fund. That is the rationale behind the amendment.

Amendments Nos. 6 and 10 propose the establishment of an assessment panel comprising four members of the statutory fund board to examine applications from persons who did not make an application to the redress board or who will have a court determination made in an action arising out of residency in a scheduled institution. Recipients of a court awards will be eligible to apply for the fund under the provisions of the Bill. The general issue of the eligibility under the fund has been discussed earlier and I have made my position clear on the matter. The new fund will have no role in respect of the making of awards. The redress board is the State's vehicle for making awards to those who suffered abuse in residential institutions. A completely different role is planned for the new board and I do not believe it should get involved in adjudicating on whether abuse took place. That is a separate function and we have set up elaborate machinery for that. To allow the board to do that would be to severely compromise its key objective, that is, to meet the needs of former residents. Accordingly I cannot accept the proposed amendments.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Section 7 agreed to.
SECTION 8

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 10, subsection (1)(e), line 38, after “service” to insert the following:

"and supports for the children and grandchildren of all former residents of scheduled institutions who successfully applied for redress under the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002, or who successfully obtained a court ruling in their favour which proved they met the interpretation of abuse as defined under section 1 of the Act of 2002, who may obtain assistance from the Fund to advance their educational skills and employment opportunities according toparagraph (c)”.

Amendment put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 12; Níl, 22.

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O’Keeffe, Susan.
  • O’Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.
Tellers: Tá, Senators David Cullinane and Kathryn Reilly; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Susan O’Keeffe.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 8 in the name of Senator Kathryn Reilly is out of order.

Amendment No. 8 not moved.
Section 8 agreed to.
SECTION 9

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 12, subsection (2)(a), line 7, to delete “and financial”.

I raised this issue in my comments on the earlier amendments. I am proposing to delete the words "and financial" in this subsection in order to ensure victims can access the fund on the basis of the hurt and torment they endured as children, without being subjected to an unfair means test. I have already made the case for this provision.

The effect of this amendment would be to preclude the board from taking account of an applicant's financial circumstances when determining its criteria. The whole purpose of the fund is that it should target its resources to meet the needs of former residents. This section requires the board to take account of the individual's circumstances, including personal and financial circumstances, when determining its criteria for making decisions on entitlements under the fund. The section gives the board considerable latitude in setting those criteria, which may be revised over time by the board itself. Removing its power to have regard to applicants' financial circumstances when determining its criteria would prevent the board from targeting its resources at those most in need.

There is a general expectation that the majority of applicants to the fund will have modest means. I assure the House that this provision is certainly not intended as a way of preventing persons who are in need from benefiting from the supports that will be available from the fund. Furthermore, it is not intended to introduce a general means test application to the fund. Rather, it will be a matter for the fund itself to have regard to the need to take account of individuals' financial circumstances when determining the criteria for its decisions. Therefore, I cannot accept the amendment.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Committee divided: Tá, 24; Níl, 13.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O’Keeffe, Susan.
  • O’Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Whelan, John.

Níl

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Susan O’Keeffe; Níl, Senators Paschal Mooney and Diarmuid Wilson.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Section 9 agreed to.
Section 10 agreed to.
SECTION 11

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 13, between lines 38 and 39, to insert the following subsection:

"(7) The Minister shall appoint an assessment panel made up of four Board members, including the Chairperson, to assess the eligibility of new applications from former residents of scheduled institutions who did not apply to the Act of 2002 or who have had a court determination made arising out of their residency within a schedule institution.".

Amendment put and declared lost.
Section 11 agreed to.
Sections 12 to 28, inclusive, agreed to.

Amendment No. 11 is out of order.

Amendment No. 11 not moved.
Section 29 agreed to.
Sections 30 to 44, inclusive, agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment and received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I thank the House for its co-operation not just on this Bill, but also in respect of other items of legislation I have brought before it since becoming Minister for Education and Skills. I compliment Senators on their work and I hope they enjoy their well deserved holiday.

It is usual practice to congratulate a Minister on the passage of a Bill. I would like to do so and to place on record the fact that we greatly appreciate the consideration he gave to the Bill in this House and the historic significance of the Bill. It is important that we do so. The Seanad played a significant role in teasing out some of the matters. It was important also for the survivors, a number of whom were present on various days to listen to the deliberations. I hope it gave them some comfort.

I add my words of thanks to the Minister. This is a job well done to have got the Bill through before the summer recess. It is useful that the Minister showed such empathy for the plight of and openness towards those victims for whom not everything has been solved at this point.

I add a word of thanks on behalf of Senator Jim D'Arcy who took the Bill yesterday and wish the Minister a well deserved break.

I join colleagues in congratulating the Minister on getting the Bill through. We agree in principle on most of it. I have made arguments on the aspects I consider too restrictive. We have had a fine debate in the past two days, in particular yesterday in the Minister's emotive contribution and the contributions of others in the House. He remarked yesterday that it showed the contribution this House has to make in terms of such legislation. Contributions were considered, sensitive and well thought out. That reflects well on the Seanad and on all sides of the House. It is appropriate that this is among the last legislation we conclude today.

I acknowledge the presence of survivors in the Visitors Gallery, where they have been in recent days. I welcome that the Minister said the board would be up and running by September. It is important it get off the ground because there has been such a long and painful journey for the survivors. For the most part, the passing of the Bill is a positive development, for which I thank the Minister.

On behalf of my colleague, Senator Mary Moran, who was leading the Bill yesterday, and my other Labour Party colleagues, I thank the Minister sincerely for coming to the House. It is great to see the Bill pass before the summer recess. I hope this goes a little way towards easing the hurt and damage caused to the survivors when they were in the care of the State and it let them down badly. Please God, they can now move on with their lives in a positive way.

I, too, acknowledge the presence of the survivors in the Visitors Gallery.

Question put and agreed to.