Orders €400m short of abuse redress target

Stalled negotiations have left religious orders €400m short of the compensation target set by the Government for abuse redress contributions.

Just one out of 18 orders has accepted the principle that, together, they should shoulder 50% of the €1.3bn abuse redress bill.

It is a year since Education Minister Ruairi Quinn met with the orders with a view to increasing their property contributions: At the time he suggested transferring ownership of school sites.

Last Friday, he saw a bill through the Oireachtas that established a trust fund to accept cash from the orders.

But afterwards he said he was disappointed by the lack of progress in talks, or movement from the 18 orders named in the Ryan Report in May 2009. He said the orders’ response has been “unsatisfactory”.

His department said the orders had made additional property offers which they said were worth €235.5m. But the department said just a fifth of the sites were considered suitable for transfer, and the value of these was well below the target.

“Of the properties offered to the State, 12 have been identified as of potential immediate benefit and the transfer of these properties is being pursued. The value of these 12 properties, based on the congregations’ own valuations, is approximately €60m,” it said.

The orders have also donated €21m in cash. This is earmarked for the survivors’ trust, and any additional sums will go towards the construction of the New National Children’s Hospital. Other orders said they would release their cash offers once the trust is set up. The law will be signed by President Michael D Higgins this week.

Some offers are now contingent on property disposals. It is understood that this is the case for a portion of the €5m offered by theReligious Sisters of Charity.

Separate to the negotiations, a proposal it submitted to Dublin City Council has mapped out six lucrative sites in the city which it would like to be allowed develop for commercial or residential purposes. These were the focus of a High Court challenge it successfully took against the council’s draft development plan.

Three tracts at Sandymount, Harold’s Cross, and Walkinstown are deemed surplus to requirements.

Another three at Merrion, Donnybrook, and Crumlin are likely to become available. The order had argued to the council and the High Court that any attempt to place restrictive zonings on institutional land assets was in breach of the constitutional right of religious groups to manage property without State interference.

Last year, it emerged that the most valuable properties had not been offered to the State by the orders.

In the last six months just one additional transfer has been completed and, after 10 years of discussions, 20 are outstanding.

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