Orders give just €20m of €1.3bn abuse compo bill

RELIGIOUS orders have contributed €20 million in cash of the estimated €1.3 billion cost of meeting child abuse compensation claims — leaving most of the rest to be picked up by the taxpayer.

This means the Church has not contributed a cent since the Ryan Report revealed abuse almost two years ago.

Under a controversial deal struck by former education minister Michael Woods, in 2002 the Church’s liability was limited to €128m of an estimated €1.1bn compensation package. But following the publication of the Ryan Report in June 2009 the Church offered to raise its contribution to €348.5m to meet an expected rise in compensation payments.

Last April, the Government asked for a 50:50 split which “would require further contributions of at least €200m from the congregation”, according to Department of Finance documents. But the briefing notes prepared for the new minister for finance, released under the Freedom of Information Act, point out: “Only €20m of the original cash offers has been received.”

The payments were to be broken down into €111m in cash, €2m in rent waivers to the state and €235.5m in property. The documents released yesterday said: “The offers of property are still being examined in terms of their usefulness.” The following two paragraphs of the notes are blacked out.

In November 2008, seven months before the release of the Ryan Report, then minister for education Batt O’Keeffe confirmed €20m in cash had been paid at that stage. He said further cash payments of €32m were being paid in place of agreed property transfers which had not materialised.

The briefing documents also said difficult choices must be made between cutting aid to the poor or “major” cuts to services at home. The Budget for this year committed €670m to overseas development aid. The minister was warned this is “unsustainable in current circumstances without major adjustments elsewhere in the Budget”.

The documents said health spending would have to be cut by €420m, with staff numbers reduced by 9,000 by 2014. It said there would have to be changes in work practices changes and the “myriad of allowances” teachers are entitled to if savings are to be made to fund the rising numbers of pupils.

The documents also suggest a new low VAT rate be applied to items that are not subject to the tax — including food, medicine and children’s clothing.

The cost of home heating fuels are also set for a rise after officials recommends they are moved from the lower rate of VAT from the 13.5% reduced rate to the higher rate of 21%. Under the €85bn EU-IMF bailout deal, the higher rate of VAT will be increased from 21% to 22% at the start of 2013. It will increase further to 23% at the start of 2014.

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