DUBLIN, Sept. 30 — The Irish government came under fire on Tuesday after it emerged the country could face a bill of up to one billion euros ($1.2 billion) in compensation pay-outs to victims of clerical abuse.
Last year the government struck a deal with Ireland’s Roman Catholic church to compensate thousands of Irish people for sexual and physical abuse they suffered while in children’s homes run by religious orders from the 1930s up until the 1970s.
The church agreed to contribute 128 million euros, which was believed at the time to be around half the likely compensation bill, but a report on Tuesday from Ireland’s Auditor General estimated there could be as many as 10,800 claims with average pay-outs of 96,000 euros.
”This is proof, if proof were needed, that the government behaved in an entirely reckless and profligate manner in relation to this deal,” said Pat Rabitte, leader of the opposition Labour Party.
The government had ”grossly mishandled this entire issue,” he added.
However, Prime Minister Bertie Ahern rejected opposition claims it had been reckless and said the government had secured the best possible deal.
As part of last year’s agreement with the church, the government agreed to indemnify the religious orders concerned against all future claims arising from past child abuse — effectively leaving the Irish tax-payer to foot the bulk of the pay-outs.
The Auditor General’s report said a board set up by the government eight months ago to receive compensation claims had been receiving applications at a rate of 50 each week. The closing date for applications is not for another two years.
The Catholic church in Ireland has been severely dented in recent years by a string of scandals involving the sexual abuse of children by priests.