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Redress board under fire after lawyers net ?83m

Added on August 2, 2007

02 August 2007

By Conor Ryan

REVELATIONS that ?83.5 million has been paid by the Residential Institutions Redress Board (RIRB) to lawyers representing those abused in State care has sparked calls for the board to be more transparent.

Figures from the RIRB reveal that 13% of the ?648m signed over to abuse victims has gone to 601 individual legal firms representing 6,494 victims.

This is more than double the amount accumulated before the 2005 annual report was released last summer, with a total of ?37m.

Director of the One in Four victims? group Colm O?Gorman said the RIRB was supposed to curtail the amount of money leaked to the legal system and suggested the figure could not be properly scrutinised under the current policy of secrecy employed by the board.

?We would like to see where this money has gone and be able to see how it has helped people to rebuild their lives,? he said

?I sometimes wonder when we look back at the outcomes has it been worth all the money we have spent. It is very hard to know because it is such a secretive process, even if 10% on legal costs does not seem too unreasonable.?

If current trends continue, the total bill for compensating people abused in residential institutions and associated legal fees will rise above ?1.1 billion.

The RIRB said it has completed a comprehensive breakdown of its legal costs in its annual report.

The report?s release has been held up by an audit undertaken by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

The latest update from the RIRB said the Comptroller John Purcell had not indicated when he would begin this audit.

Mr Purcell?s office said yesterday, the audit had yet to commence but it was expected to be completed by the end of the month.

The board said it could not comment any further and ultimately the contents of the report would be a matter for Education Minister Mary Hanafin.

The average pay-out to victims of abuse is now ?67,750, with more than half the claimants getting between ?50,000 and ?100,000.

Mr O?Gorman said that despite previous claims that solicitors were over-charging victims, he knew many who were still working to seek justice for clients without any guaranteed return.

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