Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Religious still owe State €500m for survivors

RELIGIOUS orders still owe the State more than €500m arising from the deal to compensate the thousands of children who were abused while living in their care.

The 18 congregations involved pledged a total of €680m in cash and property to cover half the cost of the settlement with the victims.

But so far, only €123m has actually been paid over, according to a new breakdown of figures. 

There were two separate deals between the State and the religious -- one in 2002 for €128m and another, in 2009, for €552m.

There was much criticism in 2002 that the religious orders were getting away too lightly, but the Government insisted that the €128m would cover half the cost of compensating victims. 

In the event, the final cost between legal fees and payments to victims has amounted to around €1.2bn.

Following the shocking revelations last year of the Ryan Report into child abuse in religious-run residential institutions, the Government renegotiated the settlement.

The 2009 deal involved an additional contribution of €349m in cash and property, as well as €203m for the new children's hospital, currently at the early stages of the planning process. 

But only €20m has been handed over and no property has been transferred.

According to recent figures, the religious have still to hand over:
  • €26m worth of property from the 2002 deal.
  • €236m in property and €92m in cash from the 2009 deal.
  • €203m for the new National Children's Hospital.
Labour education spokesman Ruairi Quinn said the public would be disappointed and angered at the slow pace of the payments.

"I hope that this does not represent an attempt by the religious congregations to renege on the agreement.

"The Government must now insist the pace of payments and transfers is accelerated, particularly given the horrendous economic problems we are facing."

He said the 2009 deal included €110m for a Statutory Fund for Survivors of Abuse to support their needs, but only €20m of that had been handed over.

Mr Quinn also said that failure to pay the €203m for the children's hospital ran the risk of further delaying the project.

Education Minister Mary Coughlan told Mr Quinn that the €26m outstanding from the 2002 deal related to properties that had physically transferred to the State, although the legal arrangements had not been completed.


She said many of the properties were held in complex legal structures, including trusts, which had resulted in a time-consuming transfer process.

She said she would be reporting to Government soon in relation to the €236m worth of property offers made in 2009.

Of the €92m cash outstanding from 2009, some orders are awaiting sight of the details of the fund, while others are awaiting confirmation of the charitable status of their contributions to the fund before handing over the money.

The Ryan Report uncovered details of sexual abuse and beatings by priests and nuns of thousands of children living in the institutions over almost four decades. It found children lived in "a climate of fear" and that sexual abuse was "endemic" in boys' institutions.

The abuse was compounded by a culture of cover-up, with offenders transferred to other locations where they were free to abuse again.

The Government set up the Residential Institutions Redress Board to deal with claims for compensation from victims. 

It has processed more than 14,000 cases.