Christian Brothers shifted properties worth €400m to trust in past year


THE CHRISTIAN Brothers have over the past year transferred ownership of their primary and secondary schools in the Republic to a new trust named after the order’s founder.

The value of the property transferred was estimated to be in the region of €400 million at the time of the transfer, according to a spokesman for the order.

The Edmund Rice Schools Trust was established in May of last year with Mr Justice Peter Kelly acting as chairman of the trustees.

“The trust was set up to ensure the future of these schools as the former owners were aging and their numbers were reducing,” the chief executive of the trust, Gerry Bennett, said.

In all, 97 schools and their curtelages, or associated yards, were transferred. Playing fields and such property remain in the ownership of the Christian Brothers, with the schools having leases that guarantee access as long as the schools remain in existence.

The purpose of the trust is to further the aims and purposes of Catholic education in the Edmund Rice tradition in colleges, schools and other educational establishments owned by the Edmund Rice Schools Trust Ltd.

The articles of association of the company allow it to accept from existing owners property of every kind as well as charitable and benevolent funds and investments.

Mr Bennett said neither the trust nor any of the schools have significant capital reserves beyond the buildings and that some of the schools are carrying debts.

“The Edmund Rice Schools Trust does not yet have a trust fund. Instead, the Christian Brothers order has agreed to fund the trust for a three year period.

“For 2008-2009, the grant from the Christian Brothers amounted to €750,000. For 2009-2010, it is €1.2 million and agreement has yet to be reached for the following year.

Mr Bennett said the trust will file audited accounts to the Companies’ Registration Office.

The other members of the trust are: Danny O’Hare, the founding president of DCU; Pat Cox, the former president of the European Parliament; Dr Fiachra Long, philosophy lecturer in UCC; Prof Eunice McCarthy, psychology professor at UCD; Patricia McCrossan, former principal of the Central Remedial Clinic School: Br Michael Murray, former province leader of St Helen’s Province in Ireland; Carmel Naughton, a former chairwoman of the National Gallery; and Pat O’Neill, former group managing director of Glanbia.

The directors of the trust are Pat Higgins, former director of education at Drumcondra, Helen Ó Murchú, a member of the Governing body of the Marino Institute of Education, William Hallahan, a former principal at Christian Brothers schools, Catherine McDonagh, a post-primary teacher, Br Mark McDonnell, recently returned from the congregation leadership team in Rome, and Gerard Rowley, head of administration with the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

A similar process has been carried out in Northern Ireland, where nine schools have been transferred to the Edmund Rice Trust Northern Ireland this year.

The brothers remain as owners of such property as the Marino Institute on Griffith Avenue, Dublin, the Emmaus retreat centre in Swords, Co Dublin, and various residential properties, according to a spokesman for the congregation.

Over recent years, they have sold many valuable sites including the St Helen’s site in Stillorgan, Co Dublin, now the Radisson Hotel.