A scheme set up to pay for the treatment for survivors of institutional abuse faces being cut short after Catholic orders failed to stump up almost €40m in promised funding.
The 18 religious orders pledged €110m towards the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund (RISF), which will pay for mental health, social, educational and housing services for survivors.
However, the Irish Independent has learned just €72m has been received by the fund, which is due to begin issuing grants in January.
The scheme was initially anticipated to last up to five years, but this period may now have to be shortened due to the funding shortfall.
In contacts with the Department of Education, the religious orders – with the Christian Brothers and the Daughters of Charity to the forefront – have blamed the depressed property market for the shortfall.
A source said: "They made the commitment at the time based on property and property prices. Obviously, as we all know, their value has fallen since then."
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has written to the orders requesting they immediately pursue the sale of surplus property so they can fulfil their pledge within a three to four- year period.
A spokesperson for the minister said Mr Quinn had "sought specific details of their intentions in that regard".
The shortfall has infuriated abuse survivors.
"There is no excuse for the orders not paying up. It is four years since they made these pledges. They are dragging their feet on this," said Patrick Walsh, a spokesman for Survivors of Child Abuse.
Neither the Christian Brothers nor the Daughters of Charity returned calls seeking comment.
The €72m handed over to date has been placed in an NTMA account for use by the RISF. From January it will begin paying for medical and other services for survivors.
Up to 15,000 people are eligible to apply for grants from the fund.