Justice Sean Ryan: report

The Department of Education has set no specific deadline for the handover of €235m worth of additional properties pledged by the religious congregations in 2009, the Sunday Tribune has learned.

In a startling revelation, it has also warned that delays of over eight years with the previous indemnity deal suggest the transfer of the properties "will take some considerable time".

Earlier this month, the Labour Party called on the government to accelerate the property transfers, after it established that only €20.6m of the €348m in cash and property compensation offered by the congregations has so far been given to the state. This represents just 6% of the total due, with not one property having been transferred so far.

Amid intense political pressure following publication of the Ryan report into abuse at residential institutions last year, the religious congregations eventually made the offer of additional contributions which they valued at €348m. This includes some €111m cash and €235m in property transfers to state bodies and voluntary organisations.

However, a spokesman for the department was unable to say when the handover of the €348m - including the €235m in properties - will be completed.

"While some of the cash offers are to be realised over a period of up to five years, there is no specific timeframe for the property offers, and based on the experience of the property transfers under the 2002 indemnity agreement, it is likely that this will take some considerable time," he said.

More than €26m in property transfers are still outstanding from the controversial indemnity deal agreed in 2002, under which the congregations were supposed to hand over €128m in cash and property. Eight years on, legal title to 26 properties has not been transferred, although all have been made available for state use.

There are also fears that the value of any properties to be transferred will have fallen further as a result of the delays in handing them over, meaning the €348m figure will not be reached.

Asked about this, the department spokesman noted that the property values mentioned in the congregations' offers are "estimated valuations provided by them... The question of agreeing valuations in relation to any particular properties will be addressed once the government has agreed to accept the properties in question."

The department will be reporting to the government shortly on to the acceptability of the property offered by the congregations. They have also been asked to find another €200m so that they share the burden of the 2002 indemnity deal on a 50:50 basis with the state.