Thursday, September 17, 2009

Child Abuse in Ireland – the cost of eliciting the truth

2009 09 10_0410 NOW that €54 billion of the peoples’ prospective wealth is likely to committed to the National Assets Management Agency there is an intense awareness of about trends in  Government spending.

The matter of child sex abuse in industrial schools in Ireland came to prominence in 1999 and the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, made a public apology on behalf of the State in Dáil Éireann. The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse was then established.

Its mandate was

  • To listen to the victims of childhood abuse who wanted to recount their experiences to a sympathetic forum
  • To fully investigate all allegations of abuse made to it, except where the victims did not wish for an investigation
  • Publish a report on its findings – now commonly known as The Ryan Report which was issued on 20 May 2009.

The Costs

It was estimated that the Commission would complete its work in two years and that the cost would be between €1.9 million and €2.5 million. It actually took ten years to gouge the truth out of 18 religious congregations and the estimated cost of doing so is between €126 million and €136 million.

Administration is estimated at €30 million; the Commission Legal Team €15.73 million; 3rd party representation €52 - €62 million; responding to enquiries €8.5 million and other State costs € 2million.  Actual costs to the 31 December 2008 were €59,363,107.

The Commission is expected to complete its work next year.

Factors Impacting Cost Level

  • Legal challenges and consequent delays – relating to representation, deadline for evidence extension, compellability of a witness in relation to vaccine testing to attend at public hearing; challenge by the Christian Brothers on fair procedures and disclosure of details by the Confidential Committee
  • Reviews of Commission work and additional added functions concerning vaccine trials.
  • There was ‘non-effective expenditure’ between November 2001 and September 2005 of €1,153,204 in connection with an extension of the Inquiry into children in institutions’ being subjected to vaccine trials between 1940 and 1987. This aspect of the Inquiry did not proceed.
  • The former Chairman of the Commission, Ms Justice Laffoy cited impediments to the work of the Commission for the 3 years prior to 1 September 2003. She stood down at that time and was replaced by Mr Justice Seán Ryan by whose name the Commissions May 2009 Report is known.
  • Ryan recommended that the Commission refocus the work of the Investigation Committee on abuse of children. Procedural changes were put in place to streamline efficiency. The obligation to hear each and every allegation was removed and witnesses were called to the extent that the Investigation Committee deemed necessary. Interim reports would be published and a renewed effort was to be made to strengthen trust between all parties.
  • Delays in agreeing a scheme of legal expenses. From May 2001 to April 2002, an initial brief fee of €34,918 and €23,279 was payable to senior and junior counsel respectively. A refresher fee of €1,905 and €1,270 per day was agreed for the first 40 days. These were slightly higher than fees for other tribunals. New fees of €2,250 for a senior and €1,500 for a junior counsel were agreed in January 2004.
  • Absence of a scheme for the payment of compensation to victims – agreed in principle in October 2000 but not resolved until April 2002 with the enactment of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002 and the establishment of the Residential Institutions Redress Board as a separate process.

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