Redress for abuse in religious institutions falls short of 2009 commitments

Many properties transferred to trusts set up shortly before publication of Ryan Report

Religious congregations which ran orphanages, reformatories, and industrial schools for children have yet to fulfil the terms of two agreements reached with the State on redress awarded to people who suffered abuse in the institutions, and related legal costs.

Current figures indicate the total redress and legal costs combined come to €1.211 billion.

Of the €128 million the 18 congregations – which include the Christian Brothers, the Sisters of Mercy, the Presentation Brothers and the Daughters of Charity – agreed almost 20 years ago to pay the State towards costs arising, in the controversial 2002 indemnity agreement, €124.94 million has been contributed to date.

The transfer of two properties under that agreement remains to be completed, though both properties are currently being fully utilised by their intended beneficiaries, a spokesman for the Department of Education has said.


Cash and counselling elements of the 2002 agreement amounted to €65.07 million and have been fully paid. The total agreed value of the 58 properties fully transferred under the agreement is €59.87 million. Following publication of the the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (The Ryan Report) in May 2009, all 18 congregations were called in by the then taoiseach, Brian Cowen, and asked to increase their contributions on top of that 2002 deal.

The commission had investigated the institutions run by the congregations and uncovered widespread sexual and physical abuse of the children as well as their general neglect.

Combined, the 18 congregations offered €352.61 million in addition to what had been agreed in 2002. This was to be in cash, property and contributions in kind. To date, cash contributions of approximately €111.53 million have been received from the congregations.


Two transfers under the 2009 offers remain outstanding. Both are currently in use by intended beneficiaries. The combined value of 13 of the 16 properties transferred under this round is €4.515 million, while the other three valuations are in progress.

It means the total contribution received to date from the 18 religious congregations under the 2009 voluntary offer by them is approximately €116.24 million, or less than a third of what they proposed in 2009.

However, an addition would be the €200 million in value of properties they offered which were not accepted by the State but transferred to the community and voluntary sector. Still, at €316.3 million, that remains well short of the €352.6 million figure offered in 2009.

In addition, the Christian Brothers congregation, which was the largest provider of residential institutions for children investigated by the commission (taking up eight chapters of its 2009 report) is in the process of transferring playing fields it values at €127 million to the Edmund Rice Schools Trust.

In 2008, a year prior to publication of the Ryan Report, the Christian Brothers transferred school property valued at €430 million to the Edmund Rice Schools Trust, set up to continue with the provision of Catholic education in Ireland.

Similarly, in 2007 many of the Sisters of Mercy schools were transferred to Ceist, a trustee body set up to include 107 voluntary Catholic secondary schools in Ireland.

Future disposal

The Christian Brothers have agreed that the State will receive 50 per cent of proceeds arising from future disposal of any of those properties. “The congregation has recently informed the department that a number of transfers have now been completed, and the congregation has engaged legal and technical consultants to progress the remaining transfers as a priority,” a Department of Education spokesman said.

Meanwhile, redress paid out to people who had been in the residential institutions for children investigated by the Ryan Commission, has come to €1.165 billion, a spokesman for the department has said.

The figure applies as of December last and includes €971 million in awards with associated applicant legal costs of €194 million. The average award to 15,579 people who had been in the reformatories, industrial schools and orphanages as children was €62,250.

The the overall legal cost of the commission of investigation was €46 million, made up of €15 million in legal costs and third-party costs of €31 million.

It brings to €1.211 billion the total cost of investigating and redress arising from abuses in the residential institutions for children run by the 18 religious congregations.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times