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Thursday, 31 January, 2002, 10:02 GMT
Compensation package 'offensive'
Victims of abuse at the hands of religious orders in the Republic of Ireland have rejected a 81m compensation offer as "offensive".

Catholic religious orders in the Irish Republic have agreed the compensation, worth 128m euro, for former residents of state-backed institutions and their families who were victims of abuse.

The government-backed package was agreed after discussions between ministers and orders involved in abuse scandals.

The Irish education minister, Michael Woods, said that the terms would allow all relevant parts of Irish society to make meaningful redress for past wrongs.

It is an interesting barometer of Catholic church/state relations in the republic

Mary Rafferty
Documentary maker

However, John Kelly, of the Survivors of Child Abuse organisation, rejected the offer.

"They have fought us tooth and nail," he said.

"They have put every legal obstacle, both the religious and indeed the state, through the civil courts in our way.

The Irish Government established a commission to investigate abuse charges made against child care institutions run by religious orders, with some allegations dating back to the 1940s.

Mr Kelly added: "They want to co-operate with the commission for the very simple reason, that at the commission, they granted privilege and immunity to documents, statements and evidence and this is just further compound of abuse."

Under the terms of the agreement, the government has agreed to indemnify the orders against possible future legal action.

'Hard ball'

Therefore, those applying for compensation must agree not to pursue those responsible for the abuse through the courts.

Mary Rafferty who produced a documentary on the subject for the Irish national broadcaster, RTE, said some money had already been paid out.

Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster on Thursday she said: "A small amount has been handed over in cash, apparently in trust for some educational purpose with no strings attached.

"Some in respect of counselling which may have already taken place and then the bulk of it in land transfers.

"It is an interesting barometer of Catholic church/state relations in the republic, largely because it is a clear indicator of whether the state is prepared to play hard ball with the religious orders."

Documentary maker Mary Rafferty:
"It is an interesting barometer of Catholic church/state relations in the Irish Republic"
Survivors of Child Abuse spokesman John Kelly:
"They have fought us tooth and nail"
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