Orders did not offer 46 most valuable sites

THE 46 most valuable education assets held by the religious orders were not offered to the state under a renegotiated redress deal in 2010.

Instead, the bulk of these high-value sites went to religious-based trusts.

The Sisters of Mercy, which held the largest asset portfolio of any of the orders named in the Ryan Report, had 117 school-related properties worth over €1 million.

It has offered to sign over seven of these as part of its contribution to the redress bill, in addition to five sites valued below €1m.

The Department of Education said that subject to some of these being suitable, it would look into transferring the assets. But it will discount the values based on grants supplied to the institutions in previous years.

The Sisters of Mercy’s renewed €127m cash and land offer did not include any of its 13 schools worth over €10m. Together, these select parcels were worth €248m.

The Sisters of Mercy and four other orders have committed to putting secondary school assets into the Ceist/Educena trusts, which will run the schools.

The Presentation Sisters are also involved in this scheme and put 36 of its schools, worth €98m, into the trust in 2007.

Similarly, the Christian Brothers put €430m in school sites into the Edmund Rice Schools Trust prior to the reopening of negotiations with the then government in 2009.

These were not assessed by the department ahead of the release of Education Minister Ruairí Quinn’s summary document.

The Presentation Brothers Schools Trust was set up to handle €21m-worth of education buildings on a lease agreement for 999 years. If the company winds up, the assets would immediately divert back to the brothers.

The two trusts and Ceist/Educena are now separate entities and it is not clear if their assets can form part of the renegotiations.

A spokesperson for Mr Quinn said he appreciates there are complex legal issues surrounding the ownership of many sites, but it was something he wished to explore in co-operation with the orders involved.

The only other school site suggested to the new redress package was put forward by the Sisters of St Clare.

This was a former primary school in Ballyjamesduff, Cavan, worth €275,000. This congregation did not provide details on the rest of its school buildings.

The Sisters of Charity had more than €60m in education sites available to it, 21 of which worth over €1m. It has made a new cash offer of €5m, of which €1m has been delivered.

The Dominican Friars chose not to put any value on its Newbridge College Campus in Kildare.

The education banks for 12 of the 18 orders named in the Ryan Report show that 46 of the sites were worth over €5m each, while 152 school premises would have been expected to sell for over €2m apiece.

Of the 13 school-based properties put on the table by the orders, seven were valued over €1m. The most attractive was the former Sisters of Mercy boarding school in Clonakilty, Co Cork, worth €4m.

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