Thursday, June 25, 2009

Head of religious order served legal papers
Head of religious order is served High Court papers
By Senan Molony Deputy Political Editor
Thursday June 25 2009

THE head of one of 18 religious orders accused of institutional abuse of children was dramatically served with a High Court subpoena last night.

Fr Joe O'Reilly, of the Rosminian order, was served with court papers by Robert Dempsey (46), who alleges he was beaten and raped while in care as a boy.

The intervention came after a meeting between the religious and the Government, at which the Taoiseach said a three-person panel would be appointed next month to assess the financial worth of the orders involved

Brian Cowen said the panel would assess the financial positions submitted by the congregations "and report to Government as to the adequacy of these statements".

Asset reports are to be submitted by the congregations by the middle of next month, when a further meeting will be held.


Fr O'Reilly was later unable to say whether the congregations had come to an interim approximation of their worth, or whether they had considered making a payment on account to the survivors of institutional abuse.

Mr Cowen had ordered the congregations to provide full financial statements following the publication of the Ryan report last month.

The religious orders had earlier indicated an unwillingness to contribute any further money beyond a €128m indemnity deal signed with the Government in 2002.

The leader of the Catholic Church delegation was visibly taken aback yesterday to be served with court papers as he left the meeting with the Taoiseach and Ministers for Education, Health and Justice, as well as the Minister for Children.

Mr Dempsey, who spent 18 years in St Joseph's Special School, Ferryhouse, Clonmel, Co Tipperary, was born in care to a mother already in detention. He claims his brother and sister were "sold" to American adoptive parents within a few days of birth and that he has never met them.

He refused to attend the Residential Institutions Redress Board, saying he has been fighting for years to get his case heard in court.

Mr Dempsey attributes scars on his body to beatings and being punched in the face by a priest.

The Government panel appointed to scrutinise the list of assets submitted by the orders is expected to consist of specialist auditor and accountancy expertise.

Fr O'Reilly said further meetings would assess the nature and extent of contributions to be made by the religious orders to the Government and the survivors.

Asked about overseas investments and assets held outside the jurisdiction, he declared: "It will be a full, complete assessment of all the resources we have."

He said the encounter with Mr Dempsey had been "very upsetting", adding: "I know well his anger and how he has been treated on previous occasions. I hope we can help to bring healing to him."

Christine Buckley of the Aislinn survivors' group told Fr O'Reilly she believed the Government was appointing its own team of asset investigators "because you have been so deceptive in the past". She added: "My concern is that you have had years to get a lot of this money out of the country."

In a joint statement last night, the 18 congregations said it was agreed to submit a statement of affairs to the Government by mid-July.

"There will be further contacts to discuss the nature and extent of contributions to Government by the congregations," they said.

- Senan Molony Deputy Political Editor

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