LEGAL costs for settling compensation claims with victims of abuse in residential institutions have now risen to a €140.8m, according to the latest figures. Half a dozen solicitors' firms have each cleared more than €1m a year for their work.

The figures are contained in the annual report of the Residential Institutions Redress Board for 2008, which has only now been published.

Of every euro awarded to an abuse victim, 20 cent is now being eaten up in legal costs and administration, the report concedes.

Legal costs in 2008 alone came to €27.62m. Of that, only €1.23m related to actual court proceedings and the rest was paid out for private hearings.

Six legal practices cleared more than €1m in 2008.

The firm with most cases on its books was Peter McDonnell and Associates, which received €2.82m for 351 cases.

The highest earner was the firm of Michael E Hanahoe, which got €3.02m for 186 cases.

Two other firms earned more than €2m: Byrnes Carolan Cunningham which got €2.29m for 219 cases, and Murphy English and Co, which was paid €2.46m for 167 cases.

Another two firms also cleared seven-figure sums. Burns Kelly Corrigan received €1.5m for its work on 196 cases and Lavelle Coleman got €1.04m for 107 cases.