THE 18 congregations in the care home redress row could be worth as much as €20bn.
Properties they own are among the most desirable in Ireland and around the world, with one congregation even counting Jack Nicholson as a neighbour.
Others have accounts with the queen of England’s bankers, Coutts.
The astonishing figure is based on assets from Ireland and around the world. It includes care homes, hospitals, churches, schools, retirement homes, convents, publishing houses, youth hostels, internet firms, tour companies, farms and car parks.
Philip Beresford, the editor of the Sunday Times Rich List, said: ‘Based on the figures for Irish and UK income and property, a conservative estimate would be €15bn.
But the total value of all of the 18 congregations could be as much as €20bn.’
The congregations’ €45m redress payments to abuse victims since 2002 pale in comparison to what they have earned from the Government.
According to past accounts of the Health Service Executive, the Department of Education and the now defunct regional health boards, this amounts to more than €2.5bn per year.
The €45m is a fraction of the e2.6bn paid to abuse victims in the US and Canada.
The Brothers of Charity, which was founded in Belgium and is the largest provider of services for people with intellectual disabilities in the State, was paid €649.5m between 2005 and 2008.
Unlike thousands of Irish businesses struggling to survive the recession, most of the order’s income is guaranteed.
Indeed, since the infamous compensation deal was struck by former education minister Michael Woods, the congregations have been paid more than €14bn.
The UK branches of some of the congregations in Ireland have available funds of more than €522.7m, according to accounts.
In Ireland, their land banks include more than 600 properties, while in the UK they have more than 250 properties.
There are least 400 properties further field. Some of these properties are lavish.
In London, for example, the Sisters of Nazareth’s Hammersmith offices, based in a sumptuous period property, were last night valued at about €42m.
As well as choice slices of central Dublin, the orders have always had a canny eye for investing early in some of the best neighbourhoods.
The Sisters of Nazareth have more than 50 retirement villas on land bought more than 60 years ago in a prized part of Pretoria in South Africa.
And as well as owning Monaghan Cathedral and properties in Brazil, France and England, the Sisters of St Louis have property a few doors down from Jack Nicholson’s Mulholland Drive mansion in Hollywood.
Although the religious groups have insisted that they are legally restrained from selling, their practices over the past 10 years have shown otherwise.
Property experts believe orders sold off nearly €1bn in property between 1999 – the year the indemnity was signed – and 2004.
The indemnity deal capped the liability of religious groups at €127m even though the total bill is likely to cost the State around €1.3bn overall.
In 2004, the biggest single land deal so far took place – the Oblates Order sold Belcamp lands in Coolock in Dublin for €105m. Orders are experts at using the legal process.
Last year, trustees for the Presentation Brothers prevented Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council from zoning land on fouracres of the order’s land in Glasthule, for sports and recreational use.
This echoed a 2004 battle over proposed amendments to Dublin planning regulations.
Changes in draft city plans would have prevented development on land zoned for longterm institutional use, unless it was for social housing.
The Conference of the Religious in Ireland (CORI) claimed the move was unconstitutional.
It would have affected its ability to make money from future sales of church land. But now abuse victims are calling on the groups to free up their assets.
Last night, care home survivor and Dublin inner city election candidate Mannix Flynn said: ‘The Catholic Church must make available immediately a social fund of at least €1bn.’
SISTERS OF NAZARETH: Empire from Malahide to leafy slopes of Cape Town.
THE Poor Sisters of Nazareth are far more financially astute than their name implies. The order which ran Nazareth House, a residential home for children in Sligo town for decades, mainly focuses its efforts on the very lucrative business of residential and nursing home care in its 40 homes worldwide. With retirement villages dotted across the world – though located mainly in Britain and South Africa – the sisters’ Victoire Larmenier Foundation control properties estimated to be worth more than e50m. Headed up by superior general Sister Mary Monaghan their portfolio ranges from a e40m palatial premises in London, a variety of ranch-style buildings in California, land and properties in New Zealand and Australia and plush retirement villages in Pretoria’s equivalent of Dublin 4 and upmarket Cape Town, above, in South Africa. Although the information on the foundation’s property presence in Ireland is limited, the Sisters of Nazareth list their large convent in Malahide as the Irish address for the Victoire Larmenier Foundation. While accounts lodged with the Companies Registration Office show the foundation has a balance of nil, the congregation has received more than e17m in HSE funds in the past three years alone. In 2003 in Britain, the sisters controlled funds worth €165m while their activities there earn them e28m a year. The order also earns e2.1m a year from investments in Britain, and accounts show funds worth e85m. More than 1,800 children passed through the sisters’ Nazareth House in Sligo between 1910 and its closure in 1993. It later became a nursing home.
CHRISTIAN BROTHERS: More than 130 properties worth a total of €700m.
ROUNDLY criticised in the wake of the Ryan Report, the Christian Brothers have a property portfolio of more than 130 properties. With a substantial number of them in prime city locations, and located on sizable grounds – the portfolio is estimated to be worth more than e1.5bn, though many of the order’s schools are held in trust. Although the exact extent of their wealth is shrouded in secrecy, the brothers, whose spokesman Br Edmund Garvey has promised total transparency, are estimated to be worth more than e1bn. Their exact wealth is shrouded in secrecy but they are estimated to be worth more than e1bn, with property alone accounting for more than e700m of this. Companies which hold Christian Brothers interests include Richmond Newstreet Ltd, six of whose directors are based near the Vatican.
SISTERS OF MERCY: Almost €1bn from taxpayer in just four years.
WITH annual income from the U.S.-based Sisters of Mercy Health System alone standing at more than e2bn, the Sisters of Mercy top the congregational earnings poll by a long way. In Ireland, where the congregation was founded by Catherine McAuley in 1831, it is one of the largest property-owners in the country. The order’s portfolio of more than 180 properties include Dublin’s Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, the Children’s University Hospital, Temple Street as well as their primelocation headquarters at McAuley House in Dublin 4. In the past four years, Sisters of Mercy healthrelated activities have received just under e1bn funding from the HSE alone. The sisters also receive Department of Education funding for each of the 60-plus schools they run. The Congregation set a record for a site in Dublin in 2001 when they sold 14.5 acres on Merrion Road for €45.7m. This was a year after they made €10.1m from their 3.5 acres at Mount St Anne’s in Milltown. The order has more than 10,000 members worldwide but as of 2003, the sisters have been organised into a number of independent congregations.