The Magdalene survivors are to be paid something by the State to compensate them for their time imprisoned and enslaved by the religious orders. This is only right and proper, although not everyone agrees that the amount offered is fair. Some survivor groups have accepted the offer and others have rejected it, but at least it’s an offer on the table, with a scale of compensation set out clearly, based on the period of incarceration.
And yet, it’s hard not to ignore the strange parallel between the attitudes of the religious orders and the behaviour of the clowns in Anglo-Irish bank
Anyone who followed the appalling meat grinder that was the Residential Institutions Redress Board will be relieved. Nobody – especially not a person rendered vulnerable and inarticulate by abuse – should have to appear before a board of stern examiners, as happened with the RIRB. The examination process was cold, analytical, inquisitorial and deeply intimidating to people who had, at best, a limited education. For many, it compounded the suffering inflicted in the industrial schools. As if that wasn’t enough, even though the survivors were represented legally at public expense, many lawyers subsequently hit them with additional legal bills despite having been paid already.
The offer applies to about 600 women and the scale of payment ranges from €11,500 for people incarcerated for three months to €20,500 for one year, €68,500 for five years to a maximum of €100,000 for anyone imprisoned for ten years or more. I hope this is a sliding scale and not a stepped scale, to avoid bureaucratic injustices where a woman locked up for nine years and eleven months is denied the full payment. This is not a vague remote possibility. This kind of thing happens all the time due to the narrow vision of the typical Irish administrator.
Of course, as is normal, the religious orders are complaining about being asked to pay their share, just as they did when asked to pay a minuscule proportion of the compensation arising from the Ryan report. Of the €1.4 billion final outcome, the taxpayer has so far carried almost the entire cost. In their own defence, the nuns are saying that they still pay for 100 women in their care. Or to put it another way, they continue to feed their slaves in old age, which is very Christian indeed. It will be very surprising if they contribute a penny to the State’s costs, because these are not people who believe in contributing.
It’s only right that the Magdalene women should be offered full health care and a minimum weekly income before reaching pension age, but yet, here we go again. The State is carrying the full cost — and here, I should point out that the amount is trivial compared to the scale of the scam inflicted on us by the Anglo spivs. The total lump-sum cost of compensating the Magdalene survivors will come to about €30 million. Even if we included the €1.4 billion spent on the redress board, the total comes to a figure less than one twentieth of the hardship inflicted on the citizens by Anglo and Irish Nationwide.
So let’s get things in context, and let’s also remember that these women are far more deserving of compensation than the bondholders of failed banks who couldn’t believe their luck when Lenihan announced his ill-conceived bailout of gamblers and hedge funds.
The bankers, the priests and the nuns, behind all the superficial differences, share a similar mindset. They share a belief that the Irish State owes them something. They share a belief that they are above the civil law, and most of all, they share a belief, which was subsequently shown to be correct, they they would never have to pay anything back. And let’s not forget that the bankers formed a sort of priestly brotherhood whose expertise, we now know, was not based on any kind of scientifically-confirmed knowledge, but, in their own words, picked out of their arses. Much like religion, in other words.
For different, and yet strangely similar reasons, the State found it necessary to step in and cover the damage caused by these two very different, and yet very similar, societal groups. It’s no accident that bankers and priests were on the list of people of impeccable probity who could sign an official document on your behalf. How times change.
There’s no escaping the question: do we Irish have a disastrous failing that leads us to believe every chancer, wide-boy and bunco-artist who sets himself up as an authority in some fake doctrine, whether it happens to be religion or banking?
And as a corollary, why don’t we as a nation force the perpetrators to carry the consequences of their actions? There are very few clerics in jail and even fewer bankers.
Full text of report here: