The Dáil has agreed an all-party motion pledging to cherish all the children of the state equally, ending the two-day debate on the Ryan Commission Report on Child Abuse.

Minister for Education Batt O'Keeffe concluded the debate by apologising again for the way his department failed children in institutions.

He said if they had done their job properly, hundreds of people would not have suffered.

Environment Minister and Green Party leader John Gormley said the time has come for a referendum on children's rights.

Mr Gormley told TDs that all parties should try to reach a consensus on the issue through the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution.

Three years ago, the previous Government recommended a referendum to strengthen the rights afforded to children.

Since then, the precise terms have been under consideration by the committee, which has yet to report.

Fianna Fail's Michael Woods has defended the indemnity deal he agreed with the religious orders.

Labour's Pat Rabbitte attacked the capping of the congregations' contribution calling it a lousy deal.

Mr Woods (below), who was Minister for Education when the deal was signed in 2002, said there had been some poorly informed comment on it.Michael Woods

He said it was done in the best interest of victims and its aim was to be generous, expeditious and cause a minimum of stress to the victims.

Labour's Joan Burton interrupted Mr Woods, saying his speech was a rewrite of history.

Minister for Health Mary Harney said those guilty of abusing children should face criminal proceedings.

She also said that as a day pupil in Goldenbridge in Inchicore, she was treated well but the same teachers brought awful suffering on others.