The Minister for Finance has welcomed calls for the religious orders cited in the Ryan Report to increase their contributions to the State's compensation fund for victims of institutional child abuse.

But Mr Lenihan and the Taoiseach have both stressed that the Government may not have the legal ability to force the religious orders to make a larger contribution.

The Bishop of Down and Connor, Noel Treanor, said he supported calls for the religious orders involved to increase their contributions to the compensation fund for victims.

On RTÉ Radio’s This Week programme, Bishop Treanor said the Church must take the necessary steps to address outstanding issues and be seen to do so honestly, courageously and humbly.

Fr Timothy Bartlett, personal assistant to Cardinal Sean Brady, said the members of the Conference of Religious in Ireland who ran the schools had to pay more towards the State's redress scheme.

The Labour leader, Eamon Gilmore, described the remarks as a ‘strong signal’ that the Church was prepared to reopen the agreement capping the contribution by the orders, which was signed in 2002.

He called on the Government to get in touch with the religious orders quickly, with a view to reopening negotiations.

However, the Taoiseach said that it would not be helpful for him to speculate on what had been said.

The Government is to hold a special meeting this week to discuss the fall-out from the Commission report, and will be getting legal advice from the Attorney General on the deal.

But obviously, Mr Cowen said, if those on the other side of the agreement were prepared to reopen it, the State would sit down and discuss that.

On a possible referendum on children, Mr Cowen said it had not been possible to reach a consensus on the holding of a referendum, and it was now up to the Minister for Children to come back to Government with his considered opinion on how to move forward.

Meanwhile, Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan said it was incorrect for the Health Service Executive to say that all children in residential were assured of independent inspection.

She said that only two of the nine centres accommodating 180 children who have come here from abroad without their families are independently monitored.

She added that a further 200 children with intellectual disabilities are living in residential institutions which are not inspected by the Health Information and Quality Authority.