Abuse orders make €667m on property

RELIGIOUS congregations responsible for abusing children in residential homes made €667 million in property deals between 1999 and 2009.

Almost all of these sales were made while the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse was investigating years of suffering endured by children in their care.

The properties included land banks, houses, farmyards, a swimming pool, a warehouse, sports grounds and convents.

A quarter of all these trades involved the 2,088-member Sisters of Mercy. Its four provinces sold 195 properties, including a €32m deal for 16 acres in Killarney.

The order still retained over €1 billion in land assets after these deals.

The 250-member Christian Brothers made €79m in the decade under review and the smaller Oblates of Mary Immaculate featured prominently because of the €105m it made by selling its Belcamp campus in north Dublin.

The top 13 trades by the orders brought in a combined €409m, while 313 units were sold for less than €1m apiece and together raised €81m.

Many of the orders have set aside millions from this activity to care for their aging congregations and clients in their care.

The €667m total consists of the revenue of 17 of the 18 orders which, in 2009, agreed to renegotiate the controversial 2002 indemnity deal.

The records of the transactions were supplied to the Department of Education after the Government demanded a review of their assets ahead of any re-negotiation.

The subsequent sales returns consisted of over 395 properties in the Republic, the North, Britain and America.

The details were released to the Irish Examiner with the orders’ agreement.

Some properties were transferred to community, public and diocesan bodies for nominal fees. Others were bought at peak prices by speculators and developers.

The asset review happened after a public backlash following the Ryan Report two years ago. The report’s contents forced the Government and the orders to revisit the deal which capped the liability of the orders at €128m. On the basis of the review the orders raised their offer to €476m. This was to go towards compensating victims, building the new National Children’s Hospital and erecting a memorial.

However, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn is seeking further property transfers. He wants the orders’ overall contribution to hit €680m, which would be half of the state’s €1.3bn compensation bill.

Despite these sales, the various orders retained a bank of property assets worth €3.07bn and a financial assets of €704m.

Valuations on the properties still owned by the orders were done in mid-2009 and do not reflect price falls since then.

The Conference of Religious in Ireland (CORI) is the representative body for all orders, including those not involved in the abuse scandal. It said it had no role or responsibility on this issue and would not make a comment on the sales data.

Efforts were made to contact all of the orders involved. Nearly all chose not to add anything to the financial reports submitted to the department.

More in this section

Text header

From florist to fraudster, leaving a trail of destruction from North Cork, to Waterford, to Clare, to Wexford and through the midlands ... learn how mistress of re-invention, Catherine O'Brien, scammed her way around rural Ireland.

Execution Time: 0.203 s