Church redress offers 'insufficient'

 

The offers by religious congregations to meet some of the cost of the compensation bill to settle clerical child sex abuse claims “fall well short”, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said today.

Mr Quinn said he is disappointed at the level offered by the 18 religious congregations, adding it was several hundred million off the €680 million mark the Government believes should be paid.

The Ryan report, published in May 2009, recommended the congregations concerned pay half the cost and they agreed.

Last April the Department of Education said it would ask the congregations to hand over title to properties, including schools, worth up to €200 million, to make up the shortfall.

This would help bring the total contribution by the congregations named in the Ryan report to redress costs for survivors of institutions they ran, nearer to what was recommended they pay. To date those costs to the State have come to €1.36 billion.

Today the Minister said only a quarter of the total property offers made by the congregations are of current interest to the State.

“Based on the congregations’ own valuations, these 12 properties are worth approximately €60 million,” said Mr Quinn.

“Despite the State’s call for the congregations to supplement their original offers, only two out of the 18 congregations have replied positively to make up a shortfall of some €200 million.

“One congregation has offered to give €1 million towards the costs of the National Children’s Hospital and to refund some or all of its legal costs, while another offered to transfer a former primary school. None of the other congregations have supplemented their original offers,” he said.

The Minister reiterated his call to the congregations to hand over appropriate school infrastructure as a way to make progress towards the 50:50 target contribution.

His comments are in response to unpublished proposals from religious congregations in relation to meeting the cost of the bill.

The Minister said he wants 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 title without prior consent of the department, he said.

Officials said congregations are also being asked to transfer properties currently leased by the State or of specific interest.

“I believe that this approach affords the congregations involved the opportunity to shoulder their share of the costs of responding to the horrendous wrongs suffered by children in their care, while at the same time, recognising the legitimate legacy of their contribution to Irish education,” he said.

Mr Quinn also said a €110 million trust will also be set up to fund the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund to support the victims of institutional abuse.

The offers of property include 49 Christian Brothers’ playing fields; Presentation Sisters’ St Bernard’s Group Home, Fethard, Tipperary; Sisters of Our Lady of Charity childcare facility at Gracepark Rd, Drumcondra, Dublin; and Sisters of St Clare primary school, Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan.

The Sisters of Mercy offered several schools St Joseph’s VEC College, Carrick on Suir; the Adult Education Centre, Waterford; land at Convent Road, Cahir, Seamount Convent and College, Kinvara, Galway Scoil Mhuire Secondary and Mercy Primary School, Ennistymon, Clare; and the Old Primary School and Hall, Trim, Meath.

The order also put forward the McAuley Centre, Kells, Meath; Beaumont Convalescent Home and grounds, north Dublin; 33 acres at the National Rehabilitation Hospital Dun Laoghaire; and St Anne’s Lenaboy Castle, Taylor’s Hill, Galway.

The Government said it will propose long-term option on further Sisters of Mercy properties including two convents in Cork, two primary schools in Mayo, and schools in Longford, Leitrim and Meath.

Mr Quinn has written to the 18 orders with his response to their offers and asked for meetings to pursue the massive shortfall.

The Government said it has only received €20.6m in cash to date.

Additional reporting PA