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Mercy Sisters Offer of Over €127m Matches Compo Total

Irish Examiner, December 04, 2009, by Seán McCárthaigh

THE Sisters of Mercy have offered to contribute cash and properties worth over €127.5m in compensation to the victims of physical and sexual abuse in former industrial schools run by the order.

The offer by the congregation of nuns – which ran five industrial schools including the notorious Goldenbridge facility in Dublin – is one of the largest contributions by any of the 18 religious orders which ran such residential centres.

The various congregations were criticised for only contributing €128m towards the overall €1.3bn cost of the scheme in a controversial deal agreed with the Bertie Ahern-led Government in 2002.

The Department of Education said it had received the responses from all 18 religious orders which had contributed towards the cost of the compensation scheme operated by the Residential Institutions Redress Board.

The Brothers of Charity also confirmed yesterday they will contribute an additional €1.5m towards the cost of the scheme.

Over €100m in cash and €227m in property have been committed by 10 congregations who have announced renewed offers, while two orders, the Rosminians and Good Shepherd Sisters, have declared they are unable to contribute any more money.

In a statement, the Sisters of Mercy said they were "deeply saddened at the findings of the Ryan report" and expressed regret for the suffering of children in their care.

The order said its contribution consisted of €20m cash to be paid to a trust for former residents as well as properties worth just over €107.5m.

The Sisters of Mercy said properties worth €80.8m would be transferred to the state, with €11.6m being given to the trust for former residents and a further €15m to voluntary groups.

The order, which was criticised in the Ryan report for its harsh and strict regimes, already made an initial contribution of assets worth over €33m to the redress scheme.

Christine Buckley, of Aislinn Foundation and a former resident of Goldenbridge, welcomed the renewed offer by the Sisters of Mercy. However, she expressed some reservation about the size of the contributions to the state and voluntary groups rather than to former residents.

Meanwhile, the Brothers of Charity, which ran a residential school for boys with special needs at Lota in Glanmire, Co Cork, also confirmed they have offered another €1.5m in cash.

The Ryan report found the Brothers of Charity had put the order’s own reputation over and above the safety and care of some of the most vulnerable children in the state.

Last night, the Brothers of Charity issued an "unreserved and heartfelt" apology to anyone who was sexually or physically abused while in their care as well as to anybody whose complaints about their treatment at Lota were not taken seriously or believed.

The order said it had taken into account the number of persons associated with the Brothers of Charity who went before the Residential Institutions Redress Board and the average award made in determining the size of its renewed offer.

A spokesperson for Education Minister, Batt O’Keeffe, said responses from all 18 religious orders had been received after the Government insisted on further financial contributions following the publication of the Ryan report last May.

It is understood Mr O’Keeffe will bring these offers to the Government within the next fortnight.

 This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Friday, December 04, 2009