Irish abuse churches must pay, prime minister argues

Irish leaders declared on Wednesday that the secretive Catholic orders responsible for abusing children in workhouse-style schools must pay a greater share of compensation for victims.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen has demanded face-to-face negotiations with all 18 orders involved in decades of child abuse.

Defense Minister Willie O'Dea said: 'We have to ascertain how much they actually have. The government is adamant and determined that they will make an appropriate contribution.'

Mr. Cowen said that his government fully accepts the damning findings from a nine-year investigation into scores of state-funded, church-run schools for Ireland's poorest children.

That report found children had suffered decades of physical, sexual and mental abuse in ill-monitored facilities until the last closed in the 1990s.

Mr Cowen called on Catholic congregations to face up to their own moral responsibility to do more, particularly by funding counselling and education services for victims and their families.

The premier noted that one order implicated in brutality and molestation at boys' schools, the Christian Brothers, had already pledged to search their finances and assets for 'surplus' funds.

After an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the abuse report, Mr. Cowen said: 'I believe the other individual congregations involved should now also articulate their willingness to make a further substantial voluntary contribution.'

Seven of the 18 orders confirmed on Wednesday that they would meet government ministers.

All reiterated apologies for their role in harming children, but none said they would contribute more to a 2002 deal with the government that left taxpayers paying almost all of the £959,000 ($1,531,249) legal bill for 14,000 abuse settlements.