Groups planned to use proceeds for care, upgrades

By Conor Ryan
MONDAY, JULY 04, 2011

THE nuns who made hundreds of millions of euro by selling property during the Celtic Tiger had made plans to use the money.

All the groups concerned represent ageing congregations and have allowed for high costs for caring for these women in the years ahead.

The orders also spent some of the proceeds upgrading their convents, supporting the services they are associated with and compensating those abused in residential homes.

The Sisters of Mercy has proposed donating just under €130 million worth of cash and properties to the redress package. This is in addition to the €33m it signed over under the original indemnity deal and the transfer of a €95m site at the Mater Hospital to allow the HSE to build the National Children’s Hospital.

The order estimated it will require €116m of its reserves to pay for the care of its 2,088 members, of which 75% are older than 65.

Of the €63m worth of trades involving The Religious Sisters of Charity, the bulk related to the €45.3m deal for its land at Merrion in Dublin. By its estimates, it will cost €38m to support the care of its 264 sisters, 181 of whom are over the age of 71.

The Sisters of Charity also transferred €56m worth of properties for no money in the 10 years up to 2009, including a site worth €24m given to St Vincent’s Hospital.

The Presentation Sisters, the 713 members of which had an average age of 74, made €72m from selling assets during the boom.

“The level of disposals was driven by the high-value property market which led to significant offers for land and buildings occupied by the Irish province,” a statement said.

“In addition, some of the properties/convents were no longer suitable as a place of residence and it was decided it would be more appropriate to dispose of the property and use the proceeds to invest in new, more suitable, living quarters.”

The Daughters of the Heart of Mary had just one significant sale during the 10-year period. This was a plot next to its convent in Dun Laoghaire, which was sold for €7.5m in 2008 It said it was planning to renovate the living quarters for its 14 members at a cost of €2m.

The specific sales figure for The Daughters of Charity was not available in the documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

However, it said it had sold lands a number of years ago and earmarked €26m from these deals to fund the upgrade of its facilities for residents in its care and services for people with intellectual disabilities.

The Sisters of Nazareth made over €18m by selling sites. The first sale of €2.6m was made when Sligo Borough Council bought its land to build a relief road. The order used €1m of this to fund its contribution to the original Redress Scheme. The rest went towards refurbishing its convent in Sligo to accommodate sisters returning from overseas’ missions.

In 2005, a much larger sale raised €16.3m. This went towards building a 50-bed care home, leased to an operating company for 50 years. The home did not make money in its first two years so the order subsidised the care centre to the tune of €200,000 a year.

The Sisters of St Clare, with 79 members, off-loaded more than €18m worth of land. It also transferred two school sites in Kerry for nominal fees to support local education.

This appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Monday, July 04, 2011

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4 thoughts on “Groups planned to use proceeds for care, upgrades

  1. Gerry 98 wrote:-

    “I get the strong feeling we would all be shocked …”

    No, Gerry, not all of us Irish would be shocked at the way the Irish Authorities behave in a daily way, i.e., “do business”.

    Some of us Irish may be, but not all of us are. Certainly not me. And I’m born and bred Irish myself. Though, I have to say, I’ve done a fair bit of travelling and living abroad, so I suppose all that “outsidering” helped me view Ireland and its Roman Catholic culture, more objectively than it would have, had I stayed at home, so to speak …

  2. anyone know the level of funding those groups have received in the last 15 years , have their books been checked?????as to what, when ,how they spent all those millions they received ?? all expencies must be open to inspection, I get the strong feeling we would all be shocked its not gone on the survivors thats for sure,

  3. How are these religious groups – supposedly with vows of poverty – able to sell lands/properties they never owned? Surely these belonged to the communities of ordinary people who financed them through ”’ ahem ”’ voluntary donations!

    From the foundation of this state in 1922 and despite all the monies these groups received via ‘Capitation Grants’ from the State, nobody in government, throughout the period 1922 up to 1996, ever got sight of their financial records … statement of accounts et al. Indeed the only arguments ever between the State and these groups wasn’t about neglect, abuse, starvation, slavery .. but about money!

  4. Hi Paddy: It is interesting to see some figures at last, though these in themselves do not tell a full story. In fact for me the figures give rise to other questions which should be brought to the attention of Mr Quinn, who in my understanding is a qualified architect and as such, well able to cast an eye of reality on some of the information given in this post.

    Some comments on this posting:

    Sisters of Mercy:
    The order estimated it will require >€116m of its reserves to pay for the >care of its 2,088 members, of which 75% are older than 65.

    This is equal to 55,556 per head!

    It does not state the period of time that the above monies are expected to cover. Indeed the older they are, the better in financial terms. I qwould estimate that an annuity of 55,000 would provide an income of 408 per month and of course the older you are the better the rate that you would receive.

    This figure the minimal possible (if all were 65) would be on top of any state benefits received.

    Presumably they could purchase annuities to cover the group for this amount so providing an annual income for their life expectancy.

    €45.3m deal for its land at Merrion in >Dublin

    As property values continue to decrease, my question would be:

    What date was this valuation made?
    And depending on the date, should this be revised downward.

    After all are they not committing to pay what was agreed years ago by the
    “Secret Agreement” so is this effectively a delayed settlement on the amount so hurriedly agreed so many years ago? If so would they not have benefited from then increased property valuations that have been made since that time.

    I know that these have since reversed – but I think the date of agreement and the date of settlement ( and any difference for benefit that could have been received during that difference in time should be examined and taken into consideration. The state and the survivors should benefit form the best case during this time frame and not further penalised by an ongoing and possibly mistimed gamble on the property market. Or did the government of the day simply miss this point of setting a date for settlement?

    If they indeed covered this should there not be interest now due?

    Finally, the following statement:

    In 2005, a much larger sale raised €16.3m. This went towards building a 50-bed care home, leased to an operating company for 50 years.

    The home did not make money in its first two years so the order subsidised the care centre to the tune of €200,000 a year.

    The figures above suggest that this expenditure was based on figs of 326,000 per bed which sounds rather expensive to me.

    The comment does not suggest that this has special medical facilities attached to this so I have to presume it would have to be very high spec.

    I have seen figures of costs for 100 room hotel to build in Ireland calculated at approximately €30,000 per room. So a smaller unit build would obviously have a premium on this but I am sure it is not in the region of 290,000 per room.

    With regard to the subsidy:

    “subsidised the care centre to the tune of €200,000 a year.”

    I assume the order made a commercial decision and would be aware of the risk associated with any such action.

    However, there may be reasons for this, such as, a delay in completion and so an associated delay of the time to fill this with residents.

    This issue to my mind should not impact on their capacity to pay as I would consider that this, their capacity to pay should have been completed before taking financial decisions and so associated risks with what would have been monies intended and agreed to have been earmarked for other purposes.

    Kind regards
    MM

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