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Tuesday 25 July 2017

State releases breakdown of religious orders' financial assets

John Cooney

The Government has published a detailed breakdown of the financial assets and the personnel numbers of religious congregations for the first time.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen is pressing 18 religious orders to pay €680m as half of the expected €1.36bn bill for taxpayers.

This €1.36bn bill covers costs incurred in the Ryan investigation into abuse of children in industrial schools and orphanages, and pay-outs to victims from the Redress Board.

Mr Cowen told survivors that, in line with a Dail resolution, the Government plans to place in a statutory trust an offer of €110m in cash from religious orders over the next few years.

But this has angered survivors who feel that they are being penalised because of the recession.

Michael O'Brien, a former Fianna Fail mayor of Clonmel, Co Waterford, who promised to go on hunger strike in three weeks' time, described the cash offer of €110m as "a joke".

John Kelly, of Survivors of Child Abuse Ireland (SOCA), said that the post-Ryan report offer was mainly in properties "which are of no value to anyone".

Underwrite

He said that the money should "be put into a fund to be handed to the victims directly and they can look after their own families."

Mr Kelly said survivors wanted the Vatican and the Irish bishops to underwrite the contributions, but not the taxpayer.

Christine Buckley, director of the Aishlinn Centre, called for a re-examination of every case that came before the Redress Board, and suggested more money should be spent on counselling services, education, repatriation services and the inclusion of the Magdalene women.

Sally Mulready, a member of the UK Labour Party, who was invited to the Government talks for the first time, said that 4,800 survivors from the UK had applied to the Redress Board.

Ms Mulready called for survivors in Britain to be given a fair hearing and a fair share in "the resources".

In the coming weeks the Taoiseach will hold bilateral talks with each congregation leader to secure from them an extra €280m, which the Government has promised to allocate to the new Children's Hospital.

Now the Government has revealed the "anatomy" of the 18 religious congregations -- including assets and the average age of members as being in their mid-seventies.

This report formed the basis of calculations which this week prompted Mr Cowen to demand that the bill should be shared 50-50 between the taxpayer and the religious.

The average age is mid-70s and rising. Very few are under 50. Most congregations expect few, if any, new Irish entrants in the coming years.

Congregations will simultaneously experience reduced earning capacity and the increased costs of employing lay staff.

The report warns that "into the longer term, there are likely also to be implications for the continuation of the congregations' work."

This spells the death knell of religious orders that dominated 'Catholic Ireland' for decades.

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