Christian Brothers rejected Minister’s proposal

An offer by Ruairí Quinn to take over school playing fields did not suit the congregation

The Christian Brothers rejected a Government proposal that playing fields associated with their schools be transferred to a trust they had established but with the proviso that they could not be sold without the State’s permission.

It emerged on Thursday that a 2009 proposal from the congregation, made in the wake of the Ryan Report on abuse in religious run institutions, had been withdrawn in 2015.

The 2009 offer was for the transfer of playing fields that had an estimated value at the time of €127 million.

The congregation's offer was that the land be placed in a joint trust established by the State and the Edmund Rice Schools Trust (ERST), a body established in 2008 by the brothers and into which schools with a value of €400 million have been settled.


The minister for education at the time, Ruairí Quinn, made a counter-proposal that the playing fields would be transferred to the State with guaranteed access for the schools for as long as they were required.

The counter-proposal was not accepted by either the congregation or the ERST, a spokesman for the department said.

Revised proposal

In 2013 the Government agreed to a revised proposal under which the congregation would transfer the land to the ERST for the continued use of the schools “subject to a legal requirement that prior approval of the minister be obtained for a disposal of any part of them” and that in the event of a disposal, half the proceeds would go to the State.

The revised proposal was put to the congregation in 2013. Two years later, after a comprehensive review by the congregation of its capacity to meet all its obligations, including its redress contributions, the Government’s proposal was rejected.

The congregation stated that as the initial proposal of joint ownership was not accepted by the minister, and as his counterproposal was not acceptable to either it or to ERST, it was proceeding with the formal transfer of the sports fields to the ERST.

Mr Quinn told The Irish Times that the issue of the ownership of schools was a problem in that congregations that own schools, and the trusts into which school property is being placed, could in the future decide to sell them.

Liquidate assets

These bodies can decide to change their focus and this could result in decisions to liquidate school assets, he said. “This is not just an issue for the department, it is an issue for the whole of society.” The present ownership structure could see the “unpredictable and random closure of schools.”

The object of the ERST is to further the aims of Catholic education in the tradition of the Christian Brothers in the schools they formerly owned. The chairman of the trust is the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly.

A request for a comment from the ERST met with no response. The brothers have said that as the lands are still to be used by the schools, the ultimate beneficiary is the State.

On Thursday a special report on the cost of the child abuse inquiry and redress from the Comptroller and Auditor General said the redress scheme has cost €1.25 billion and the commission that led to the Ryan report, and other related costs, a further €250 million.

The State wants the 18 religious congregations covered by the Ryan report to contribute half the total cost. The total amount they had provided by the end of 2015 was €192 million.

On Friday the Irish Survivors of Child Abuse called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to go to Rome and demand a "comprehensive and honourable settlement of all matters connected with the child abuse scandals" involving the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent