Accounts reveal massive sums paid to order at centre of Tuam scandal
The religious order at the centre of the Tuam babies burial scandal has been paid €43.5m over the past 10 years by the private hospital group it runs.
Accounts for Bon Secours Health System Ltd reveal the payments were made to Bon Secours Sisters Ireland in respect of the leasing of buildings and interest on loans advanced by the order. The payments mean that, unlike many other religious orders in Ireland, the Bon Secours Sisters are in rude financial health.
However, the order has refused to say what it does with the money paid to it by the hospital group.
Its finances have come under sharp focus in recent days, with calls made in the Dáil and the Seanad for the order's resources to be made available to survivors of the Tuam home and relatives of those who died.
The order operated a mother and baby home in the Co Galway town between 1925 and 1961. Historian Catherine Corless believes the remains of almost 800 children may have been buried in underground chambers at the property.
Bon Secours Health System Ltd has private hospitals in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Tralee, as well as a private clinic in Cavan and a care village in Cork.
Its most recent set of accounts, for 2015, showed a payment of just under €4m was made to the order that year in respect of the leasing of buildings and interest on loans.
The accounts also revealed the hospital group generated a profit of €2.3m.
The order refused to discuss its finances when questions on the issue were posed by the Irish Independent. "The Bon Secours have no comment to make on the financial questions," it said in a statement.
The refusal to comment means it remains unclear whether the order would consider making a financial contribution to survivors of the Tuam home or their relatives.
It is also unclear if the order will consider assisting financially with anticipated efforts to identify the remains discovered by the Mother and Baby Home Commission in Tuam.
The order said it was co-operating with the commission, but declined to go into specifics.
"The order is co-operating fully with it, which means that we cannot comment on any aspect of it as to do so would be to commit an offence," the statement said.
Notes in the Bon Secours Health System Ltd financial accounts indicate there are plans for significant investment in the group of hospitals in the coming years. Some €9m was spent upgrading facilities in 2015 and further investment of up to €150m is planned by 2020.
The hospital group catered for almost 100,000 patients in 2015 and employed 350 medical consultants and over 2,700 additional personnel.
In the Dáil this week, People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith called for the order to be disbanded and its resources used to compensate families involved and to provide memorial services for the children buried in Tuam and other homes.
In the Seanad, Sinn Féin senator Máire Devine said profits from the hospital group "need to be given back to the Irish people and to the women and children who were so dreadfully treated".
However, Maeve O'Rourke, the legal advisor to the Clann, a group assisting people give evidence to the commission, said compensation was not on its agenda at present.
Ms O'Rourke said access to records and archives was the key concern. "What people want right now is access to information and there are major concerns about the secrecy surrounding the commission of investigation," she said.