Catholic orders defend contributions to compensate abuse victims

Woman praying with rosary beads Image copyright AFP / Getty Images
Image caption Catholic orders agreed to pay almost one quarter of the cost of the compensation scheme, but an audit report said they have paid only 13%.

Irish religious orders have defended their contribution towards compensating abuse victims, after a report said millions of euros are yet to be paid.

A financial redress scheme was set up after a 2009 inquiry into the physical, emotional and sexual abuse of children in Catholic-run schools and homes.

The cost of the inquiry and redress is estimated at 1.5bn euros (£1.3bn).

Catholic orders agreed to pay almost one quarter of the bill, but an audit report said they have paid only 13%.

Two orders who promised to pay the most - the Sisters of Mercy and Christian Brothers - have fallen short by tens of millions of euros, according to the report.

But the brothers said the figures were out of date while the nuns said the audit did not take account of the fall in the value of properties they sold to meet the bill.

The report was published by the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Republic of Ireland's public expenditure watchdog.

Its findings have led to one victims' group to call on the government to raise the outstanding bill with the Pope.

Six of the orders involved in the 2009 redress scheme deal have paid their agreed contribution in full.

The Sisters of Mercy had promised to contribute 127.5m euros (£112m), but the audit found that by the end of 2015, they had only handed over 25m euros (£22m) to the Irish state.

The report said the Christian Brothers, who had offered to pay 34m euros (£30m), had contributed just 10m (£8.7m) within the same timeframe.

Image copyright Comptroller and Auditor General

However, the Sisters of Mercy said they have honoured all of their commitments while the Christian Brothers said the figures in the audit report predate some of its more recent and "significant" payments.

Brother Edmund Garvey said they were "on course to honour in full the voluntary pledges" and that the final amount would be handed over after planned property sales.

He added that school playing fields worth well over 100m euros (£87m) are to be transferred from the order to the Edmund Rice Schools Trust, for the "benefit of its 37,000 students and ultimately the state of which they are part".

But Minister for Education Richard Bruton said this move was not acceptable to the government, and that the lands should be transferred to the state or sold under a joint agreement.

Mr Bruton said the government had actually wanted the costs of the redress scheme to be shared on a 50-50 between the state and the Catholic Church, but admitted the amounts pledged to date were a "far cry" from that.

The minister added he would continue to exert "moral pressure" on the religious orders to meet their 2009 payment agreements.

In a statement, the Sisters of Mercy said they had honoured all their commitments, which were based on the value of their properties at the time.

They said that 81m euros (£71m) of their total 127.5m commitment was to be paid to the state in the form of property, but that the economic downturn had reduced the government's financial gain from the sales.

The nuns said that they had "always made clear that the value of (their) contribution was subject to the fluctuations in value attaching to individual properties".

In a statement, the campaign group Irish Survivors of Child Abuse said: "Enda Kenny should travel to Rome as soon as practical and demand a comprehensive and honourable settlement of all matters connected with the child abuse scandals which implicate the servants of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland."

The Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse, commonly known as the Ryan Report, was a nine-year inquiry which concluded in 2009.

It found that Catholic Church leaders knew that sexual abuse was "endemic" in boys' institutions.

It also found physical and emotional abuse and neglect of children were features of Catholic-run institutions.

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