Friday 15 December 2017

Quinn says he'll call in bailiffs to get church abuse cash

John Cooney Religion Correspondent

THE Government will call in bailiffs to collect a €375m compensation shortfall from 16 Catholic religious orders responsible for horrific child abuse in industrial schools.

The threat came after it emerged that only two of 18 orders have agreed to cover half the €1.36bn bill to taxpayers for clerical child abuse payouts.

In a clear warning of the Government's intent to recoup state payouts, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn yesterday intensified the pressure on the orders to sign up to new laws allowing the State to seize assets.

Mr Quinn said he wanted congregations to agree to allow the State to identify assets and property such as schools, nursing homes, playing fields and land and legally take possession of them.

There would be blocking orders on transferring titles without prior consent of the Government, he said.

Mr Quinn added that this approach would afford the congregations the opportunity to shoulder their share of the cost of responding to abuse of children in their care.

Mr Quinn said he was disappointed at the low level of offers made since the 2009 Ryan report revealed the shocking scale of decades-long sexual, physical and psychological abuse of the most vulnerable in residential institutions.

"The congregations' total offers fall well short, by several hundred million, of the €680m contribution they should bear towards the cost of institutional residential child abuse," said Mr Quinn.

"In April, I called on the orders to consider handing over appropriate school infrastructure as a way to make progress towards the 50-50 target contribution. I reiterate that call now," he said

In a statement, Mr Quinn said that only a quarter of their total property offers were of current interest to the State. The value of those 12 properties, based on the congregations' own valuations, amounted to roughly €60m, he added.

Property

The full list of property offered includes 49 Christian Brothers' playing fields; the Presentation Sisters' St Bernard's Group Home, Fethard, Co Tipperary; the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity childcare facility at Gracepark Road, Drumcondra, Dublin; and the Sisters of St Clare primary school, Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan.

The stand-off dates back to 2002 when Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Education Minister Michael Woods signed a controversial indemnity deal placing a ceiling of €128m on the amount to be paid by the orders.

In 2009 this was increased when the orders offered to contribute an additional €100m which was judged by the Government still to be inadequate.

In April 2010, to meet a shortfall of €200m, Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe told the orders to raise their offer to €375m in line with the Ryan recommendation of a 50-50 division.

Irish Independent

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