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Religious abuse lawyers' fees will reach €250 million.

By Pat Leahy, Political Correspondent, Irish Post, 07 October 2007.

Lawyers for the victims of sexual and physical abuse in religious institutions will be paid up to €250 million in costs by the time the compensation scheme is finished.

The lawyers' costs will account for almost 20 per cent of the cost of the scheme, which is being funded mainly by the taxpayer.

The total cost of the residential institutions' redress scheme is now expected to be up to €1.3 billion, including legal costs.

The €250 million payout to lawyers is more than government ministers said the entire scheme would cost when they set it up five years ago.

The compensation scheme is designed to offer redress to children who were placed by the state in orphanages and schools, and then abused by members of the religious orders and staff. New figures from the Department of Education show that more than €700 million has already been paid out in compensation, including almost €100 million in legal costs.

The board - set up to hear cases and award compensation - has completed more than 9,000 cases, while another 5,270 remain to be heard. The work of the board is not expected to be completed until 2010.

It was originally intended that the costs of compensation should be shared by the orders and the state.

However, under an agreement reached behind closed doors between the government and the religious orders in 2002, the orders' contribution was capped at €128 million, comprising cash and more than €80 million in property transfers.

An investigation by The Sunday Business Post earlier this year revealed that many of the properties transferred to the state are of questionable value, and that few have realised any cash value.

At the same time, religious orders have sold property worth hundreds of millions of euro on the open market.

 
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