By Shane Phelan
Wednesday November 25 2009
WHILE the value of assets held by the Christian Brothers is now known, the value of those of the other religious orders, and how much more they can afford to pay abuse victims, has yet to be revealed.
A report on the assets of the 18 orders involved in the controversial 2002 indemnity deal with the Government has been with Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe for the past fortnight. But it is not yet clear when its contents will be made public.
In the immediate aftermath of the publication of the Ryan Commission report last May, the orders indicated they were unwilling to provide more funds beyond the €128m negotiated as part of the indemnity deal.
However, mounting public anger over the deal -- which saw taxpayers pay the vast majority of the €1.3bn compensation bill -- forced the orders into a rethink.
A month later, following a meeting with the Government, the orders agreed that they would make further "financial and other" contributions in reparation to those who were abused in their care.
However, some of the smaller orders also quietly protested that they use all or most of their assets to look after their ageing membership.
To finally get to the bottom of what each order was worth, Taoiseach Brian Cowen appointed a three-person group, chaired by the former chairman of the Revenue Commissioners Frank Daly, to carry out an assessment of their wealth.
But despite promises from the orders that they would act transparently, the work of the group has not progressed as quickly as was hoped.
Although their report has been with Mr O'Keeffe for two weeks, it cannot be viewed as the full picture as further information has had to be sought from individual orders about their assets.
Apart from the Christian Brothers, which has a sizeable property portfolio, it is known that some of the orders continue to own landbanks worth tens of millions of euro. A number also have sizeable cash assets having sold major landbanks in recent years.
In 2005 the Oblate order sold the 208-acre Belcamp College in Malahide, Co Dublin, for €105m. Four years prior to that, the Sisters of Charity sold 14-and-a-half acres on Merrion Road in Dublin for €45.7m.
The Sisters of Mercy also remain a major landowner, with at least 47 properties around the country, each held for it in trust by a number of companies.
- Shane Phelan