The Department of Education says “significant milestones” have been reached in getting religious congregations to hand over lands and properties to help meet their liability for child abuse redress costs.
In an update to the Public Accounts Committee, the secretary general of the Department of Education Seán Ó Foghlú said only a small number of properties are still to be transferred to the State.
Properties are being handed over by religious congregations under two rounds, the legally binding 2002 indemnity agreement and those offered voluntarily by congregations in 2009. Between the two rounds, eight properties remain to be fully transferred to the State by the Church.
“Considerable progress has been made since my last report, with the transfer of six further properties being completed. There have also been extensive engagements between all of the State parties involved and the transferring congregations and their legal representatives.
“Significant milestones have been achieved in the case of a number of the remaining transfers,” Mr Ó Foghlú wrote in a letter dated May 17th.
Under the 2002 indemnity agreement, Mr Ó Foghlú says that only two properties remain to be fully transferred; the Sacred Heart Centre in Waterford and the Mounthawk Secondary School in Tralee.
“I recently met with the Congregational Leader of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy to discuss how the transfer could be expedited,” he said, referring to the Tralee school.
He said that there has been “active engagement” on the transfer of the property.
In relation to the 2009 voluntary offers, Mr Ó Foghlú says that, of the 18 properties offered voluntarily and accepted for transfer to State bodies, 12 have been fully transferred. “Considerable progress has been made in relation to the transfer of most of the remaining properties.”
Amongst those remaining properties are the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire, a property on Grace Park Road in Drumcondra and a property in Galway. A meeting has been scheduled with the congregation in Drumcondra to discuss the transfer of that property.
An update was also provided about the status of cash contributions which have been made.
"A recent contribution of €2 million from the Congregation of Christian Brothers has brought to €105m the total amount contributed by congregations, comprising contributions of some €103.6 million plus added interest of €1.382 million. These amounts have been received by the Department and placed in an investment account established by the National Treasury Management Agency.
“This funding is available to Caranua, the residential institutions statutory fund. A contribution of €6.8m, being the balance of the cash contribution of the Congregation of Christian Brothers, is expected to be received in the coming months.
“The Congregations have informed me that these funds will be remitted upon the completion of the sale of lands at Clonkeen in Dublin, the transaction is currently in progress.
“The amount of that contribution that is in excess of the statutory cap of €110 million will go towards the national children’s hospital... as will any additional cash contributions.”
According to figures up to the end of February 2019, Caranua had expended some €82.5 million on supports and services for former residents and had 2,127 open applications on hand.
Caranua ceased to accept applications from August 1st last year and is currently working to process those remaining applications. Caranua’s operations will be wound down during the course of this year. The organisation will then be dissolved.