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