Religious orders yet to meet terms of 2002 deal with State over redress for victims of abuse in institutions

Thursday 12 July 2012 18.25
Religious orders have transferred €105m of the €128m pledged in 2002
Religious orders have transferred €105m of the €128m pledged in 2002

Religious orders have yet to transfer around a fifth of the assets they promised to give the State ten years ago, to assist with the cost of redress and support for victims of physical and sexual abuse in religious-run institutions.

It has also emerged that the total cost of providing redress and support to victims is likely to be higher than the last official estimate of around €1.36bn.

In 2002 18 religious orders struck a deal with the then minister for education, Fianna Fáil's Michael Woods, to transfer €128m or property and cash.

In exchange, the orders were guaranteed indemnity from civil prosecution.

At the time, unofficial estimates of the total future cost were around €500m.

Correspondence between the Department of Education and Dáil Public Accounts Committee now shows that over ten years on, just 41 of 64 promised properties, worth a total of €41m, have been  legally transferred to the State.

A spokesperson for the department said cash and other contributions worth a further €64m have also been transferred.

The total received by the State so far under the 2002 deal is now €105m.

By 2009, following publication of the Ryan report into institutional abuse, the estimated cost of redress and support for victims had ballooned to around €1.36bn.

At that stage, religious orders yielded to pressure and pledged to transfer a further €350m worth of cash and property to the State.

The current Government, believing the cost should be shared on a 50:50 basis between the State and religious orders, sought a further contribution of several hundred million euro.

That has not been forthcoming - a matter the Minister for Education has said he is disappointed about.

Today the Department of Education confirmed it now estimates the final bill will exceed €1.36bn.

CORI, the umbrella body for religious orders here, would not comment on the delays. Nor would a number of the orders contacted directly by RTÉ News,

However, a source close to some of the orders said they would not accept that problems related to the delayed transfer of assets are solely down to the orders themselves.

Another source said orders are also frustrated at the speed of the progress, but that nobody is to blame.

It is understood some of the delays in transferring property have been due to difficulties in establishing formal legal title over what are, in many cases, very old buildings, and the resolution of planning issues.

Ruairi Quinn seeks greater contribution from orders

In relation to the State's desire to have the cost split 50:50, a spokesperson for the Minister for Education said Ruairi Quinn is continuing to pursue the matter with the management bodies involved.

The spokesperson said the minister has made it clear to the congregations that he has no wish to bankrupt them and he acknowledges the important positive role they have played in the development of Irish life and society, particularly in the area of education.

But she added that that should not mean, however, that the orders do not have to face up to their responsibilities in relation to their congregations' involvement in abuse.

The Chairman of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, John McGuinness, described the delays in the transfers as unsatisfactory.

He said he hoped the committee would examine the issue in the next Dáil term.