Inquiry into abuse in religious schools to examine possible costs to the state – The Irish Times

A state inquiry into sexual abuse in religious schools has been commissioned to determine the scope of other allegations likely to come from former students and the potential cost to the state.

Education Secretary Norma Foley on Tuesday announced details of a “scoping inquiry” into allegations of historic sexual abuse at schools run by religious orders. It is estimated that there are around 400 such schools, mostly at the second level.

It follows revelations of abuse at schools run by a number of religious communities, including the Spiritans, formerly the Holy Ghost Fathers, who run Blackrock College, Rockwell College and St Mary’s College. In many cases, the allegations of abuse go back to the 1960s and 1970s.

Asked whether compensation has been ruled out or ruled out, Ms Foley said the lead counsel assigned to lead the scoping inquiry will have the opportunity to “look into everything”.

“The final outcome of the report will be heavily influenced by what’s on the table, particularly by the survivors,” she said.

“It’s also informed by what we’ve learned from previous investigations, what we’ve seen internationally… I’m not going to prejudge any decision she might make.”

The terms of reference for the scoping study state that options are evaluated that include statutory or non-statutory options or a combination of both.

In addition, there will be an “analysis of the potential scale of historical sexual abuse in schools run by religious orders” and the “timeframe and cost of a government response.”

The scoping investigation, which is expected to last eight months, will be led by Senior Counsel Mary O’Toole and will involve working with survivors.

It will also analyze lessons learned from previous abuse investigations, including the Ferns Report, the Murphy Report and the Cloyne Report.

The scoping inquiry will culminate in a report to the Secretary of Education with recommendations for next steps.

Ms Foley said the revelations of abuse in a number of schools were “deeply disturbing and heartbreaking” and that it was “vitally important that survivors of past child sexual abuse have the opportunity to be heard fully and with appropriate respect and empathy.” “.

“I have said that the survivors need to know that there will be a serious government response. Today, with the support of the government, I am announcing the first phase of this response,” she said.

The question of whether a compensation system could involve the state is controversial.

While some officials argue that religious orders are liable, Louise O’Keeffe, who won a landmark case following elementary school sexual abuse, has argued that her case establishes the principle that the state has an obligation to protect students from past abuse protect at school.

The latest allegations of abuse were sparked by the broadcast last November of a RTÉ radio documentary about the story of two brothers, Mark and David Ryan, who were sexually abused by priests at the school in the 1970s, unbeknownst to them.

Since then, Gardaí has ​​collected more than 130 allegations from victims and individuals who say they have witnessed or are aware of allegations of abuse.

It prompted an apology to Spiritan victims last year and the establishment of a restorative justice program.

The government, meanwhile, has demanded that the Spiritan order retain all of its assets and keep all records of allegations of sexual abuse at its schools, which have been the focus of recent allegations of abuse by former students. The move was believed to be in anticipation of the investigation and a possible victim compensation scheme. Inquiry into abuse in religious schools to examine possible costs to the state – The Irish Times

Dais Johnston

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