Monday, November 30, 2009

Religious order will not pay extra, citing financial ‘shortfall’

One of the 18 Catholic orders that was asked to provide extra money following the institutional abuse of children has told the government it will not be giving any more money to the state.

The Good Shepherd Sisters - who were criticised for their operation of four industrial schools in Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Wexford, as well as a reformatory in Limerick - said that their congregation had suffered a significant downturn in the value of its investments.

As a result, the order told the Department of Education that it would have to take €1 million each year for this year and next year from investment accounts and cash valued at €16.8 million to cover its costs, which are projected to exceed its income.

The order’s provincial, Sister Bernie McNally, said in a statement that the order ‘‘deeply regretted’’ the fact that it could not provide any funds to the government’s proposed trust for victims.

The order said that an actuarial valuation carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers in July this year for the 127 members of the congregation showed a ‘‘shortfall’’ that would amount to €15.3 million in the long-term.

The order said it had further property-based assets of €13.4 million, but this was committed to a mixture of outreach accommodation and housing for its aged members.

Meanwhile, at least one other congregation has stipulated that it will provide only €1 million in new funds on the condition that there is a ‘‘registered independent charitable trust’’ in place before any money is handed over to the government.

The offer was made by the De La Salle Trustees on behalf of the De La Salle brothers.

The Irish region of the Sisters of St Louis has also said that it will contribute €1 million to the state toward the support of former residents of institutions managed by religious orders.

A statement on the order’s website said that the order was making the contribution in the context of ‘‘being part of a harsh regime towards children within Irish society, the Church and St Louis in the past’’.

Properties owned by the order in the Republic have been given an ‘‘indicative opinion of value’’ at €48.3 million.

However, the order said that these included residences which are ‘‘all occupied by sisters, as well as schools and school-related properties’’.

The Sisters of Good Shepherd, the Sisters of St Louis and the De La Salle brothers made details of their donations public on their websites this weekend.

This followed the announcement during the early part of last week by six congregations, specifying their assets, liabilities and details of new contributions which they have offered to the state.

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