Saturday 20 July 2019

Orders paid sixth of bill for children's home abuse

The Redress Board has to date paid out €198m to 985 legal firms

APOLOGY: Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern apologised on behalf of the State to the victims. Photo: Mark Condren
APOLOGY: Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern apologised on behalf of the State to the victims. Photo: Mark Condren
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Religious orders have contributed less than a sixth of the €1.46bn cost of compensating the former residents of children's homes and residential institutions who suffered physical and sexual abuse, as the redress scheme winds down.

Eighteen orders of nuns and religious brothers who ran the schools on behalf of the State committed to paying a total of €480m to the cost of the scheme, but have so far contributed a package of property and cash worth €211m.

The State has paid close to €1bn in compensation

The contributions are far short of the €750m or 50:50 share that the Government promised in its programme for government to make the religious orders contribute.

The religious orders originally agreed to contribute €128m in cash and property towards the scheme in 2002 in an indemnity agreement with the State.

The contribution proved woefully inadequate, particularly after the Ryan Report, published in 2009, revealed abuse, cruelty and harsh conditions in residential institutions.

The former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who apologised on behalf of the State to the victims, said at the time there was no point in re-examining the compensation deal as the Church had no money. However, the congregations volunteered additional contributions of cash and property amounting to €352m, bringing their total contribution to €480m.

More than 15,000 former residents have been compensated under the scheme and the Redress Board, which manages the awards, is due to be dissolved later this year.

Latest figures show that 15,562 people received average awards of €62,240 bringing the total bill to just under €1bn. Legal fees of €198.3m were paid to 985 firms of solicitors.

The Department of Education released new figures last week to show what were the religious congregations' contributions to date.

These figures show that the €127m pledged by the orders in 2002 has been paid but 14 properties that remain to be transferred.

The Department also released the latest figures on what each of the religious congregations have paid to the State in terms of extra voluntary contributions.

They show that as of the end of last month, some of the 18 religious congregations transferred €83.5m in cash but properties pledged have yet to be transferred.

The biggest religious order, the Christian Brothers, has promised to transfer properties worth €127m and €30m in cash but has so far paid €10m.

The Sisters of Mercy have contributed €24.94m of the €127m in additional cash and property contributions that it pledged in 2009, including €20m in cash.

In a statement, the Sisters pointed out they had already paid €33m in 2002. It said some properties have been transferred, others were rejected by the State and others are in the process of being transferred and in the hands of legal advisers for both parties.

"Some properties rejected by the State have been sold and the monies from such sales have been transferred to the State. Despite the best efforts and full commitment of the Sisters of Mercy, the full property contribution has not been finalised," it said. It also contributed €5m to the counselling service, Towards Healing.

A number of smaller orders have paid their voluntary contributions in full.

They include the Brothers of Charity (€1.5m); Daughters of the Heart of Mary (€1.5m); the Dominicans (€6.5m); the Oblates (€20m); the De la Salle Brothers (€1.055m); Hospitaller Order of St John of Gods (€1m); the Sisters of St. Clare (€1m) and the Sisters of St Louis (€1m).

The Presentation Brothers have paid €3.6m of a promised €4.6m in extra cash contributions; the Presentation Sisters paid €4m out of €5m; the Religious Sisters of Charity have paid €2m of a promised €5m. The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity have transferred €1.5m of €3m offered in cash and in other services. The Daughters of Charity paid €4m of a promised €10m.

Congregations continue to barter with State over their contributions. The Sisters of Nazareth offered a rent waiver on a property in Sligo that they valued at €2m but this was turned down.

The Sisters of Nazareth offered to waive the rent on a nursing home in Sligo to make up €2m for the State but this offer was also rejected.

The Good Shepard Sisters and the Rosminians did not make additional contributions.

Four orders of Catholic nuns - The Good Shepherd Sisters, The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, The Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of Charity - also refused to contribute to the Magdalene Laundry fund, which is expected to cost between €34m and €58m.

The Department of Justice said this weekend "the congregations concerned have made it clear that they do not intend to do so and there is no legal avenue to require them to do so."

In a statement, the Department of Education suggested that it had not abandoned the 50:50 principle and that the Minister Jan O'Sullivan is focussing on "realising" the cash and property offers.

"The Government's position remains that the cost of the redress response should be shared on a 50:50 basis between the State and those who managed the institutions," the statement said.

Sunday Independent

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