Quinn shifts stance in bid to get €500m from orders

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has shifted his negotiating stance in a bid to squeeze an additional €500m worth of redress contributions from the religious orders.

He reiterated his disappointment at the failure of the orders to accept the principal that they should pay 50% of a €1.46bn compensation and investigation bill.

However, he has got cabinet approval for a compromise approach to break a three-year deadlock between the State and the congregations. This is in a bid to overcome an obstacle linked to the ownership of land.

“The Government is obviously disappointed that the congregations have not agreed to a 50:50 share of the very considerable cost for redress,” he said.

“The Cabinet decision represents the most pragmatic way to maximise the level of contributions to be made by the congregations and the management bodies so that the taxpayer does not bear an unreasonable burden of the costs.”

Under the approach, the State will be willing to accept properties from the orders even if the title is not fully clean.

Typically religious properties have title problems due, in part, to their transfers under canon law, the existence of trusts, and the manner in which some sites were bequeathed for a specific purpose. In other cases, land is unregistered or registered by nuns and brothers using their birth names.

The department confirmed if the 18 religious orders are to meet the 50% target, they will have to contribute a total of €730m. So far they have paid over €175m.

Following the publication of the Ryan Report in 2009, the orders committed to giving €480m. However, much of this was based on property values which department memos revealed were unrealistic.

Many of the properties offered by the orders were not considered useful to the State or agencies such as the HSE. Others did not have clean title.

Twelve years after the indemnity deal was signed, legal discussions remain unresolved in relation to 20 properties offered to the State as part of the original €127m package.

A note from the Department of Education also explained the reason why the redress bill rose by over €100m in 2011.

This was because of late applications to the fund by victims before the final deadline in Sept 2011.

This brought the final cost to €1.46bn.

Evidence of child abuse unearthed in a series of investigations in recent years are to be kept in the national archives and sealed for at least 75 years, the Cabinet agreed yesterday.

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