Doubts over abuse redress payment

The Department of Education will be grilled by TDs next month on whether it really expects religious orders to pay everything owed under a 2002 deal on the costs of redress for institutional abuse.

Doubts over abuse redress payment

At the public accounts committee on Thursday, senior civil servants were quizzed about why money still owed under the indemnity scheme is not included as an asset on the State balance sheet.

Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy said that the outstanding amount is recorded in the Department of Education’s residential institutions redress special account but not in its appropriation accounts.

The fact that it does not appear on the State’s balance sheet was raised by PAC chairman and Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming, who suggested to department secretary general Seán Ó Foghlú this reflects a belief the amount would not be paid.

Mr Fleming said that the committee will expect detailed answers when the department is examined on the report, this month, by the C&AG on the cost of the inquiry into institutional child abuse and associated redress.

It highlighted the fact that less than one quarter of the anticipated final €1.5m cost has been offered by the relevant congregations, and just 13% had been received in cash, property, or provision of services by the end of 2015.

Of €128m that religious orders agreed to pay in the 2002 agreement with the department, €21m in cash and property was still outstanding then.

“If it’s legally due, it should be on the State’s balance sheet,” said Mr Fleming. “If somebody feels it’s legally due but it’s not really going to be paid so therefore we won’t include it, we will want to know who and why and when people arrived at that decision within the department.

“We will want that, exactly to the letter, clarified before you come the next day.”

Of the €354m expected to be received, there is no legal obligation around the €226m in cash and property offered since the 2009 Ryan report.

Four more properties valued at €5.8m were transferred under the 2002 agreement last year, including the Rosminians’ St Patrick’s in Upton, Co Cork, valued at almost €4.5m and believed to be earmarked for use by the HSE.

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