Church properties chosen before deal

 

TRANSFER OF ASSETS:TWENTY-NINE of 63 properties identified for transfer to the State as part of the 2002 indemnity deal with the 18 religious congregations which ran residential institutions for children, were identified for transfer prior to agreement on the deal.

In announcing the deal, then-minister for education, Dr Michael Woods told the Dáil in June 2002 that the congregations would transfer € 76.86 million worth of properties to the State.

“This includes property which is in the course of transfer, property which was transferred since 11th May, 1999, [the date of taoiseachs Dáil apology to victims of abuse] and property which has been identified and which is to be transferred,” he said.

The Department of Education could not yesterday give values for all the properties. The 63 properties are part of a deal valued at €127 million. Cash contributions totalling €52 million have been made as have services to the value of €10 million.

Less than a third of the 281 known documents held by the State relevant to the 2002 indemnity agreement with the congregations were released to The Irish Times in 2003 following requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

None was released by the Attorney Generals Office and just one (of 48) by the Department of the Taoiseach. The Department of Education acknowledged possession of 151 such documents but released just 63, while the Department of Finance has 82 documents and released 29, with another 16 part-granted. However one such document released to this newspaper was an April 2001 memo from a senior Department of Education official dated 13 months before the deal was signed.

The department’s chief negotiator with the congregations, Tom Boland, said the proposed deal was “a kind of retrospective insurance”, which potentially supplied the congregations “with a substantial subsidy”.

In a memo to department secretary general John Dennehy on April 30th, 2001 he said: “The State would be taking on an unspecified financial burden, and relieving the congregations of same (potentially providing them with a substantial subsidy).”

The congregations had argued that the State carried “a very large share of responsibility for the harsh conditions in the institutions both because of their funding policies and lack of proper supervision” he said.

They would also argue that their contribution should take into account the fact, as they saw it, “that in the past they voluntarily took a difficult and thankless task in caring for children,” he said.

For the State, he pointed out that, however, ineffective its role, “the abuse which occurred in the institutions was perpetrated by people employed by the owner/managers of the institutions who had direct and daily control over them, not by employees of the State”.

The estimated maximum potential cost of a redress scheme had been set at £300 million, he said.

This was based on an assumption that 3,000 former residents of the institutions would each seek £100,000.