The abuse happened at institutions run by religious orders
The needs of the victims of child abuse in Catholic institutions must be the Irish government's "particular priority", the Taoiseach has said.
Brian Cowen was speaking after talks with victims groups on Wednesday to discuss the Ryan report into abuse by members of some religious orders.
He apologised for "the failure to intervene, to detect your pain or to come to your rescue."
The orders which ran the institutions are due to meet Mr Cowen on Thursday.
Mr Cowen stressed that the government was committed to addressing the needs of victims and the recommendations of the Ryan report, including the erection of a memorial.
The Irish government has called on the orders of monks and nuns mentioned in the report to fund a much greater share of the 1.3bn euros compensation paid to the victims.
The Irish government is meeting most of the cost after a controversial deal in 2002 capped the amount the orders would pay.
"We will be beginning the process of engagement with the religious congregations in this regard," said Mr Cowen.
The Minister of State, Barry Andrews, will present an implementation plan to put in place new recommendations on caring for children in July.
Another major report is due soon on abuse by Catholic priests working in parish churches around Dublin.
The Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Reverend Diarmuid Martin, warned earlier this year that it would "shock us all."