PAC doubtful that church will meet deadline to transfer millions in abuse compensation to the State

PAC doubtful that church will meet deadline to transfer millions in abuse compensation to the State
Pope Francis apologised to Ireland for wide-scale physical and sexual abuse during his historic visit to this country last month

A powerful Dáil committee has effectively said it does not believe long-standing church promises to hand over hundreds of millions of euro in abuse compensation to the State, saying "I'll believe it when I see it" to claims all funds will be transferred by Christmas.

The cross-party Dáil public accounts committee called into question the sincerity of 18 church congregations involved in abuse just weeks after Pope Francis' apology to Ireland, saying they have been hearing the same claim for more than a decade.

As revealed in today's Irish Examiner, the Catholic church has handed over less than half of the compensation money and property it promised to give the State in light of repeated physical and sexual abuse for decades across the country.

The money, which is meant to help survivors of the abuse, was agreed as part of the 2002 formal indemnity agreement with the then Fianna Fáil-led Government and the 2009 voluntary payments packages in response to the Ryan report revelations.

In a detailed 18-page document sent to the PAC, the Department of Education's secretary general Sean O Fóghlú said a total of €480.6m was meant to have been transferred to the State in the form of funds and property since the deals were struck.

This includes €128m as part of the 2002 agreement and €352.6m under the 2009 deal.

However, in his correspondence to the PAC, Mr O Fóghlú said to date just €253.65m of the expected money - including €4.21m from the 2002 agreement and €249.44m from the 2009 deal has been transferred to the State to date.

And while Department officials and the church congregations involved have indicated they believe the matter will be resolved by Christmas, PAC members were heavily suspicious of the latest claimed deadline yesterday.

Speaking during a detailed PAC meeting examining more than 2,000 pages of correspondence sent to the committee over the summer break, PAC chair and Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming said "I've been hearing this now [the delays] for 12 or 13 years".

Noting the fact Pope Francis apologised to Ireland for wide-scale physical and sexual abuse during his historic visit to this country last month, Mr Fleming added:

"We shouldn't be hearing about or talking about issues that should have been resolved 15 years ago.

"If you believe this will all be done by Christmas... I don't believe it."

Mr Fleming was strongly supported by a number of other PAC members, including Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy and unaligned Independent TD Catherine Connolly.

In an angry outburst at the delays, Ms Connolly in particular said multiple properties are failing to be handed over to the State and framed as charitable PR-friendly donations instead of abuse compensation when they are eventually provided.

Highlighting a specific case in her Galway constituency, she said one property at Taylor's Hill was provided recently having been left idle for a decade - drastically reducing its value in the process.

Meanwhile, the same PAC meeting also heard €878m in potential tax is currently unavailable to the State because of 78 ongoing appeals to the tax commissioner.

The figure includes three cases involving unnamed individuals or companies whose appeals relate to €361m worth of potential tax.

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