Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Bailiff threat to Church over abuse

Ruairi Quinn has threatened to send in the bailiffs over a massive shortfall in child abuse compensation

The Government has threatened to send in the bailiffs after only two of 18 religious orders responsible for horrific child abuse moved to breach a compensation shortfall of up to 375 million euro.

Despite the Catholic Church agreeing to cover half the 1.36 billion euro bill for clerical child abuse claims, the congregations have refused to budge.

In the clearest signal yet that the Government is determined to force payment, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn is to pressure the orders to sign up to laws allowing the state to seize assets.

The minister said he was disappointed at offers made since the 2009 Ryan report revealed the shocking extent of decades-long sexual, physical and psychological abuse of the most vulnerable in institutions.

"The congregations' total offers fall well short, by several hundred million, of the 680 million euro contribution they should bear towards the cost of institutional residential child abuse," he said.

"In April, I called on the orders to consider handing over appropriate school infrastructure as a way to make progress towards the 50:50 target contribution. I reiterate that call now."

The Department of Education said the 18 orders of priests and nuns offered 128 million euro in cash, property and counselling services as part of a controversial indemnity deal dating back to 2002.

This was increased in 2009 to 348.5 million euro after the Ryan report called for the 50:50 split between state and church - a cash pot of more than 100 million euro which was boosted by property which the orders valued at 235.5 million euro.

Mr Quinn has warned the congregations that the state has use for only a quarter of the total properties offered - 12 sites, which the Government now values at just 60 million euro. The lack of offers from the congregations, combined with a the property crash, has created a massive shortfall in the compensation fund, running to 375.5 million euro.

"Of the properties offered to the state, only 12 have been identified as of potential immediate benefit to the state and these will be pursued," said Mr Quinn.

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