Alliance Support Group

August 2015 Archives

Magdalene promises - broken

‘Failure to honour’ Magdalene promises


A group of dentists has hit out at what it claims is the Government’s “failure to honour” promises made to Magdalene laundry survivors on medical care.



Dental care provided only entitles the women to “limited and incomplete” treatment that the dental treatment services scheme (DTSS) provides for most medical card holders .The disclosure in a letter, to the Journal of the Irish Dental Association, is signed by Dr Padraig O’Reachtagain, Dr Maurice Quirke, and Dr Desmond Kennedy.

It states: “It is believed that more than 90% of these women who live in the State already have a medical card.

“This ‘compensation’ or ‘redress’ pales into insignificance when compared to the redress scheme provided for the survivors of institutional abuse through CaraNua. These survivors have all their dental treatment needs catered for.”

The dentists called on the Council of the Irish Dental Association “to publicly disassociate itself” from the scheme and to speak out “on behalf of its members who do not accept the injustice we are expected to support”.

The Department of Health said Magdalene survivors have been prioritised for treatment by the HSE and are receiving “enhanced” care under the DTSS.

This includes a free oral examination, two fillings every calendar year, all extractions, and free emergency dental treatment for relief of pain and sepsis as well as more complex care and treatments including scaling and polishing and additional fillings.

It said Mr Justice Quirke’s recommendations were that Magdalene women receive access to the full range of health services enjoyed by holders of the hepatitis C HAA card.

“It should be noted, however, that Judge Quirke’s report acknowledged the HAA services were reproduced for illustrative purposes; recognised that not all of the HAA services described may be relevant to the Magdalene women; and further acknowledged that the scheme for the Magdalene women would require suitable adaptation,” the department said.

“All of the primary and community health services being made available to Magdalene women are as specified by Judge Quirke.”

Claire McGettrick of the Justice for Magdalenes Research group said Mr Justice Quirke had said that the women should have access to a “comprehensive suite” of healthcare.

“It’s quite a stretch to suggest that the card Magdalene survivors are receiving provides a ‘comprehensive suite’ of healthcare, when entitlements are barely an improvement on the medical card,” she said.

Ms McGettrick welcomed the intervention of the dentists and said it vindicated her group’s position. “We have consistently pointed out that the healthcare provisions outlined under the Act are barely an improvement on the entitlements under the ordinary medical card, which 90% of survivors already have.

“The Government has repeatedly denied this fact. However, our concerns and those of survivors have now been vindicated by members of the dental profession.”


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Change of Heart by the Catholic Church

Card Dolan 1

The Cardinal Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, has accused opponents of quoting out of context his 2007 statement to the Vatican that he was strengthening a diocese’s protection against litigation by sex abuse victims by putting most of its assets into a Cemetery Trust Fund.

He says they’re ignoring the fact that the civil law at the time required him to move the money beyond diocesan control.

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week, the Cardinal also praised this month’s bankruptcy court offer of $21m by his former archdiocese of Milwaukee to over 300 clerical abuse victims, which has been dismissed by their lawyer as “harsh and hurtful”.

When Pope John Paul appointed Dr Dolan, a former seminary rector, as Archbishop of Milwaukee in 2002, the diocese was in turmoil following the resignation of his predecessor.

“He had paid close to half a million dollars to an adult man he’d had an immoral and promiscuous relationship with,” says the Cardinal. The newcomer turned to a ten-member financial council, made up of financial and legal professionals, for assurances that Milwaukee’s diocesan finances were “whistle clean”.

They highlighted one big problem: The “need to do something about fifty-five million dollars in a trust to protect cemeteries (in the diocese in perpetuity).

“They said ‘this is not diocesan money’,” he recalls. “‘And by Wisconsin State law this has to be segregated from funds of the archdiocese.'”

But in subsequent legal proceedings, it emerged that in 2007, following the segregation of the trust, Cardinal Dolan had written to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy stating: “I foresee an improved protection from any claim and liability.”

Sitting in the 800-year-old Ballintubber Abbey, County Mayo, he confirms the words are his own.

“You’ll notice though that that’s one line in the letter. Up above, if you read the whole letter, I told the Congregation for the Clergy here’s why I did this, Eminences, because state law in Wisconsin requires it and because my lay finance committee said it.

“Later on I said a side benefit of this was that, if the Church is ever sued, now it’s not our money,”  he paraphrased.

“At the time, the Supreme Court of the State of Wisconsin had said the fund was protected. So I did not have to fib or say hey, the only reason I did this was to protect the money because it was already protected.”

“That’s the law,” his interviewer agrees. “But what about justice?”

He’s reminded that in 2011, the then Pope Benedict XVl had dispatched him to investigate Ireland’s Catholic seminaries in the wake of the clerical child abuse scandals convulsing the Church here. Part of the terms of reference of that ‘Apostolic Visitation’, as the probe was called, was to examine how justly the Church in Ireland dealt with sexual abuse victims molested by priests in childhood.

But he had already told the Vatican that a benefit of putting most of the Milwaukee Church’s assets beyond diocesan control was that it protected $57m from litigants. And shortly after arriving in the diocese he had warned Vatican about the prospect of abuse victims suing the Church.

So, he is asked, what credibility did he have as a Vatican Visitor to Ireland’s scandal-ridden Church?

Cardinal Dolan says his visitation was not to see how the Irish Church dealt with abuse victims; it was to see how the seminaries were doing.

But the Vatican’s official Summary of the Findings of the Visitation states:

“Particular attention has been given to the assistance offered by the Church in Ireland to victims of past abuse. All the Visitators acknowledge that, beginning with the bishops and religious superiors, much attention and care has been shown to the victims…”

However, the Cardinal is firm in his belief that the issue of victims was dealt with by other Visitors who examined the country’s four Archdioceses.

But how could seminarians – the future leaders of the Irish Church- credibly take advice from the Cardinal when he had told the Vatican that a benefit of moving $57m out of diocesan control was that it put it out of reach of litigants who had been abused in the Church?

He said he hoped the seminarians could credibly take his advice, especially if people knew that in Milwaukee he had already entered a voluntary mediation programme that over three hundred victims had benefited from.

But how did he respond to criticism that the average pay-out from that programme had been $57,000 while litigants in California had received, on average, $1.3m? Given that he had lobbied Wisconsin’s legislators not to amend the statute of limitations in order to allow timed-out cases to be brought by victims, were the awards made under his settlement programme minuscule?

“No,” the Cardinal responds.

“If you look at the awards that are going to be made now in Wisconsin (on foot of the diocese’s offer earlier this month in the bankruptcy court) they’re about what we had already given out.

“Because … why? … The attorneys get over half the settlements.”

However, attorney Jeff Anderson, who represents people who have filed 350 of the 570 bankruptcy claims, called the archdiocese’s treatment of abuse victims “harsh and hurtful.”

The archdiocese says it has spent $19.75m in legal fees during the four-year-long bankruptcy case.

“This process has been heartbreaking for many who have been treated so unfairly by hardball legal tactics,” Anderson said. “The survivors continued to stand up for what was right, what they believed in, and to make sure the truth was brought to light. Because of them, children are better protected.”

Asked about the prospect of same-sex marriage being legalized by referendum in the United States as it has been in Ireland, the 65 year-old prelate says it would cause America’s bishops “some consternation” as would any other development that would dilute the noble purpose of marriage between man and an woman in lifelong and faithful unions.

He laments that only half the Catholics who marry in the US do so in church

“That causes bishops to wring our hands and fall on our knees in prayer.”

And he can claim to know his fellow prelates having served as president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops between 2010 and 2013.

Following the interview, the Cardinal invites his interviewer downstairs to the Mass he’s celebrating in the eight hundred year-old abbey to mark the end of a week-long pilgrimage by 170 fellow-Americans through the west and south-west of Ireland.

His highpoints were the visit to the seventh century Gallarus Oratory on the Dingle Peninsula and the opening last Friday of this year’s Marian Novena in nearby Knock which is devoted to the theme “Faith and Family”.

The man whose ecclesiastical seat is St Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue looks very happy in the Catholic Ballintunbber Abbey. A man with roots in County Cavan, he appreciates the building’s historical significance: Mass has been continuously celebrated in the Abbey for longer than in any other church on this island, notwithstanding the faith’s persecution under the Reformation and the subsequent Penal Laws of the late seventeenth century which exiled Catholic clergy and monks, suppressed Catholic education, and disqualified believers from parliament, the professions and even ownership of a horse valued at over £5.

It’s the feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. The man who once dismissed claims that he had shortchanged abuse victims as “malarkey” leads his little flock back home on Aer Lingus’ first chartered flight from Ireland West airport in Knock to the Big Apple.

Listen to the interview on RTÉ’s This Week:


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Outspoken priest’s talk halted by bishop


Fr Tony Flannery has said the Bishop of Cloyne’s intervention to stop him addressing a parish event in East Cork shows the Church’s claim of wanting to give voice to the laity was “empty and meaningless talk”.



He had been asked two months ago to give a lecture and take part in a question and answer session at Killeagh Parish Pastoral Council’s ‘Spiritfest’ event.The founder of the Association of Catholic Priests said the invite had been issued to him by the pastoral council and the talk was due to take part in the community hall, “not on church property”.

However, according to Fr Tim Hazelwood, parish priest in Killeagh, a notice in this weekend’s parish newsletter will inform parishioners that “Fr Flannery will not be speaking because he is out of ministry and the bishop has asked that he not speak”.

It is understood Bishop William Crean of Cloyne travelled to the parish earlier this week and met with the pastoral council and said the talk should not go ahead.

Last night Fr Flannery said: “To find that an Irish bishop, and indeed one of the younger recently appointed ones, is pushing the notion of silencing and going to the extreme of not allowing me to give a talk in a community hall, is utterly unacceptable.

“I think it is quite appalling in the era of Pope Francis who is constantly urging people to speak their minds and speak freely to each other, to have an Irish bishop so blatantly preventing someone like me from speaking.”

He said the invite had been issued by a group of lay people at a time when the Church and bishops “have been talking constantly in the last while about the importance of the laity and giving a voice to the laity”.

“This shows up what an empty, meaningless talk that is,” he said. “That the bishop can come, which he did the other evening, and just quote his authority, and say ‘no, you cannot do that’, and they have no comeback to him. The question I would have when lay people see something like this happening is what is the point in any lay person involving themselves in the church when, ultimately, they can be pushed aside like a fly?”

Fr Flannery, who espoused what had been perceived in Rome in the past to be liberal views on contraception, celibacy, and female priests, said the move by the bishop was “very foolish”.

He said he gave more than 20 talks around Ireland last year without fuss.

“I mainly talked about Pope Francis because I am a greater admirer of his. They all went off quietly and it was grand. This would have been the same. Now it has descended into this and that is just utter stupidity on the part of the bishop.”

Last night the bishop said in a statement: “While the Parish Pastoral Council extended this invitation in good faith, I have been obliged to inform the members that — having spoken with Fr Flannery’s superior, the Provincial of the Redemptorist Order in Ireland — I am unable to approve the extension of this invitation at this time.

“The reason being is that Fr Flannery is currently out of ministry and the policy of the Diocese of Cloyne is that a priest who is out of ministry, for whatever reason, cannot exercise a public ministry.”

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Chile to deport Irish-born priest convicted of sexual assault

Friday 21 August 2015 22.00

The interior ministry said John O'Reilly would have to leave the country after completing his sentence in 2018
The interior ministry said John O'Reilly would have to leave the country after completing his sentence in 2018

The Chilean government has decided to deport an Irish priest who was convicted last year of sexually abusing a young girl, according to the Chilean interior ministry.

John O'Reilly was sentenced to four years' probation in November for repeatedly molesting the girl from the time she was five.

The abuse took place from 2010 to 2012 at an exclusive school where O'Reilly was the spiritual advisor at the time.

The interior ministry said it was revoking O'Reilly's permanent residency and that he would have to leave the country after completing his sentence in 2018.

The decision can be appealed to the Supreme Court.

O'Reilly, 69, was once an influential figure in Chile as the local head of the Catholic Church's ultra-conservative Legion of Christ order.

He arrived in Chile in 1984 and was granted citizenship in 2008 - but had it revoked in March by Congress.

The Legion of Christ has been beset by accusations of sexual abuse.

The order's founder, Mexican-born Marcial Maciel, stepped down in 2005 amid allegations of pedophilia and fathering several children. He died in 2008.

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Accountability - At last

Complaint to the UK Charity Commissioners Against Irish Women's Survivors Support Network


Further to our report ‘Illusion of Justice’ in respect of the Magdalen Women we have been endeavouring to find out the role of Voluntary Action Camden (VAC) who was paid the grant of €250,000 to assist Magdalen Women.

The Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald told the Dail that:

To facilitate good governance, the IWSSN registered as a not for profit Company Limited by Guarantee and an agreement was entered into to route the funding through Voluntary Action Camden, a long standing registered Charity which supports, develops and promotes voluntary and community groups.

The once off payment of €250,000 which was made in December 2013 was subject to a number of conditions including the requirement to submit financial statements of the IWSSN with the report of an independent examiner every year that the fund was in existence.

We wrote to Simone Hensby the Chief Executive of VAC because of a serious abuse complaint made by one of our clients against IWSSN. She has refused to answer reasonable requests regarding the receipt of the sum of €250,000 and the terms that these monies were paid on. Further the VAC state that they are not involved in the supervision of Irish Women’s Support Service Network (IWSSN) and that the complaint has to be referred to Sally Mulready the Chair of IWSSN who is also a trustee of VAC.  We have therefore submitted that she is unable to independently investigate her own organisation. It therefore begs the question ‘What did VAC receive a substantial sum of money for?’ IWSSN have their own bank account, so why were the monies paid into a bank account at the VAC? Did they merely receive the monies and then transfer this sum directly into the account of IWSSN or were monies deducted for VAC and if so what were these monies deducted for, if not to assist Magdalen Women?

The Justice Department state that any grievances have to be taken up with IWSSN directly even though they paid the sum of €250,000 to VAC. We submit that they have a duty when making a grant to ensure that vulnerable women are not placed in a situation where they may be subject to abuse.  We have today sent a letter of complaint to the Charities Commission to investigate the grant paid by the Department of Justice Ireland to Voluntary Action Camden. These monies were paid to assist Magdalen Women and we need to establish what actually happened to these monies and what assistance has been provided to the women the grant was supposed to help.

VAC has failed to acknowledge or answer further queries we raised in this matter and this is now a matter for the Charity Commission to investigate the allegations of abuse of vulnerable women and whether there are any financial irregularities or breaches established.  The silence from VAC is concerning and so was the conduct of Sally Mulready at our seminar held in November 2014.

McMahon Solicitors Limited, Basepoint Business Centre, 272 Field End Road

Eastcote, Middlesex HA4 9NA

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Mother and Baby Homes: ‘All aspects of Confidential Committee confidential’


The Mother and Baby Homes Commission has refused to answer questions on how its Confidential Committee — set up to gather testimony from survivors — will work.



The Irish Examiner posed a series of questions to the commission relating to the operation of the committee, which was set up to listen to the experiences of those who spent time in mother and baby homes.

The information pack sent by the commission to people wishing to give evidence states that their testimony will be heard by a committee member, with “an experienced person” taking notes in what is described as an informal process.   An audio recording will be taken with permission. It also states people will not require legal advice or assistance, although they may choose to have a solicitor accompany them.

If the person wishes to give evidence to the commission’s investigation then, with permission, “the recording may be used by the commission’s legal team” in relation to the person’s appearance before the Confidential Committee.

On foot of this, the Irish Examiner asked:

  • Will all interviews with the Confidential Committee be recorded, unless a witness does not consent to this?
  • Will a transcript and audio copy of the recording be provided to the witness?
  • What is the area of expertise of the experienced person taking notes when a witness is being interviewed?
  • Will a copy of those notes be sent to the witness?
  • Will the witness have an opportunity to clarify anything s/he believes does not reflect her/his testimony?
  • Will witnesses be given a copy of the general report of the Confidential Committee?

However, a statement issued by barrister with the Mother and Baby Home Commission, Ita Mangan, said:

“All aspects of the Confidential Committee are confidential including its procedures. People who wish to be heard by the committee are given detailed information in advance about how the meeting will be conducted.”

It pointed out the report of the committee must be completed by August of next year and must be published.

Claire McGettrick of Justice for Magdalenes Research said she was “disappointed and concerned” that the commission declined to answer any of the queries.

“While we concur with the need for confidentiality of witnesses, the committee’s procedures should be totally transparent in order for the Irish public to have any confidence in the process. More importantly, witnesses should be made completely aware of the committee’s procedures so that they can participate in an informed manner,” she said.

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