Cost of redress scheme for those abused by religious hits €1.5bn

Government policy that religious share liability, but contribution stands at just €192m

The child abuse inquiry and subsequent redress scheme set up to compensate people who suffered abuse in institutions run by the religious orders cost €1.5 billion to the end of 2015, according to Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) Séamus McCarthy.

The redress scheme cost €1.25 billion by the end of 2015, which is five times the original estimate of €250 million.

And while the scheme is now largely complete, there will be ongoing costs arising from continuing supports for those affected.

It is Government policy that the religious orders involved should share equal liability. But as of end 2015 the total contributions made by them is €192 million, according to a report published Thursday.


Of the total cost of €1.25 billion arising from the awards scheme, the actual awards came to €970 million while legal fees were €192.9 million. And 98 per cent of applicants relied on legal advice when seeking redress, according to the report from the C&AG.

The bulk (85 per cent) of the awards, of which there were 15,579, were for less than €100,000 and the average was €62,250. The highest award was €300,000.

Seven legal firms earned fees of between €5 million and €19 million, and 17 were paid between €1 million and €5 million. There were also 967 legal firms that received less than €1 million in fees.

In 2002 an indemnity agreement was signed between the State and 18 religious congregations, which meant the State became liable for any claims made against them. It was agreed to contribute cash, property and other resources totalling €128 million, noted the C&AG’s report. At the end of 2015, €21 million of this remained to be transferred to the State.

Legal costs

Since then the indemnity was invoked 33 times, leading to awards totalling €4.4 million being paid by the State, with the associated legal costs exceeding this at €5.7 million.

After the publication in 2009 of the Ryan Report, the congregations offered additional cash and property of €353 million. In September 2015 this total was revised downwards, to €226 million, when, according to the report, the Department of Education said the Christian Brothers had withdrawn an offer of school playing fields and associated lands valued at €127 million.

In the six-year period to December 2015, only €85 million, or 38 per cent, of the additional €226 million has been received by the State, according to the C&AG’s report.

“There is no legal obligation regarding the outstanding €141 million. The timeline for receiving those contributions is not clear.”

The Commission of Inquiry into Child Abuse, which led to the Ryan Report, was set up in 1999 and cost an estimated €82 million. The Department of Education had initially come up with an estimate of €2.5 million. The cost of the commission is additional to the redress scheme.

The redress scheme was run by the Residential Institutions Redress Board, which was established in 2002. The C&AG said that if the redress scheme had not been established, the legal costs from people going to court seeking compensation would have been “substantially higher” than those that arose through the scheme. And the backlog of cases in the courts might have been substantial.

As well as paying towards the commission and the redress scheme, the State also spent €176 million supporting former residents of the institutions in relation to health, housing, and educational and counselling supports.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton expressed frustration and disappointment at the lack of progress by the religious congregations in meeting the costs of residential institutional child abuse.

The bulk of the people who received support had been committed by the courts to industrial schools, reformatories and other institutions, in the period 1936 to 1970.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

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