Published: 02 August 2011
Author: Angela Sdrinis
Time running out for Irish Abuse Claims
In 2002, the Republic of Ireland set up a fund to compensate people who experienced abuse and neglect in Orphanages and Residential Schools in the last century.
The decision to set up the Redress Fund followed a public outcry when the extent of the abuse in Orphanages came to light and particularly in response to revelations that the Catholic Church, which ran many of the Institutions, had been instrumental in hiding the truth which led to continued abuse of children both in and out of care.
After four reports investigating the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, the Irish Government has announced that the Redress Scheme will be finally wound up and claims for compensation will not be accepted after 17th September 2011.
The Irish Redress Scheme has been widely acknowledged as a model for similar schemes throughout the world where there have been similar revelations of abuse in Government and Church institutions although so far, the Irish scheme has been one of the most generous with no limit on compensation and the average pay out has been approximately $85,000 AUS.
Irish born Australians and New Zealanders can access the fund but must act urgently to do so. Angela Sdrinis, partner with Ryan Carlisle Thomas and institutional abuse expert said today, “If you have experienced abuse in an Irish institution, you must come forward immediately as a strict deadline now applies.” Ms Sdrinis also went on to say, “Even if you were not abused in an institution but were a victim of clerical abuse, funding has also been set aside by the Catholic Church and its Religious Orders to pay compensation.”
The Irish Government has now called on the Vatican to explain its conduct in hiding the sexual abuse epidemic that was rife in the Catholic Church. Anne Barker, Victorian MP for Oakleigh who has returned from a fact finding mission in Ireland has also called on the Victorian Government to implement an inquiry into the Catholic Church response to sexual abuse in this state.
Ms Sdrinis said, “I endorse Anne Barker’s calls to hold an inquiry in Victoria. The recent trials of Br Best show that the Catholic Church continued to bury complaints and to support the perpetrator rather than the victims as it is widely understood that the Church paid for Best’s defence throughout numerous trials. Further, if victims try to sue the Catholic Church in these cases of historical sexual abuse, the Church uses the “Ellis Defence”. This refers to a Defence successfully used by the Catholic Church in beating a claim for damages where it argued that the only legal entity that exists in the Catholic Church is a Property Trust which is incorporated for the sole purpose of owning and disposing of property and managing the financial affairs of the Church. The Catholic Church has argued that, as the property trust had nothing to do with the hiring and supervision of priests, it cannot be held liable for their misconduct. As there is no other legal entity that can be sued within the Catholic Church, the Ellis decision means in effect that the Catholic Church is immune from suit in cases of historical sexual abuse.
The time for cover up and hypocrisy by the Catholic Church must come to an end and this will only occur if there is a properly convened independent inquiry. The Church’s own inquiries have been shown to be flawed and more about controlling the process than establishing the truth.”
If you were abused in an Irish institution, please contact one of our Sexual and Institutional Abuse lawyers immediately to ensure that any claim for compensation may be lodged before the closing date of 17th September 2011.