DUBLIN -- A commission investigating child abuse in institutions run by the Catholic Church in Ireland published a scathing report yesterday, accusing the government and most religious orders of obstructing its work.
The 442-page report by the Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse said its efforts to investigate abuse complaints by 1,712 individuals, many now more than 70 years old, were unreasonably on hold because of bureaucratic and legal delays.
The commission had put off publishing its report because of the resignation in September of its chairwoman, Judge Mary Laffoy, who accused the government's Education Department of making her work impossible. The government replaced her with another judge, Sean Ryan, who earlier this month said the commission must severely edit the cases it handles to complete the investigation within the next decade.
Opposition politicians and victims' groups appealed yesterday to Prime Minister Bertie Ahern to take personal control of government oversight of the commission. But Ahern and Education Minister Noel Dempsey said they would not respond to the criticism until they could read the report carefully. Ahern authorized the fact-finding panel after issuing an apology in 1999 on behalf of the Irish state to thousands of orphans and other children abused in institutions run by Catholic orders under government supervision.
The commission, formed in May 2000, was asked to gather evidence from alleged victims and determine the nature and extent of the abuse in church-run industrial and reformatory schools from 1936 to the 1980s, by which time nearly all the schools had closed.
Its work does not include offering financial compensation to victims. Last year, a different board appointed by the government began to pay out awards as part of a controversial government-church deal in which the taxpayer, rather than church authorities, would foot most of the bill.
The total claims are estimated to exceed $600 million, of which the church has offered to pay $160 million -- mostly in donated properties, rather than cash.
Yesterday's report detailed the commission's struggle to secure cooperation with 27 religious orders and the Education Department, which possesses most of the school, reformatory, workhouse, and orphanage records.