(Irish clerical sexual abuse victims with a copy of a government report into child abuse, in Dublin May 20, 2009/Cathal McNaughton)

The Irish government asked religious orders on Tuesday to consider transferring buildings and land to the state to cover a 200 million euros shortfall in their contribution to a compensation fund for victims of abuse. The congregations agreed in 2009 to provide more compensation to victims of rape, beatings and slave labour in now defunct industrial schools they ran after the publication of a report into the abuse shocked the once devout Catholic country.

The government wants the congregations, including the Christian Brothers and the Sisters of Mercy, to contribute half of an estimated final compensation bill of 1.36 billion euros ($1.9 billion). The government has paid out around 1.3 billion euros in compensation so far.

“The congregations’ total offers fall well short, by several hundred million, of the 680 million contribution they should bear towards the cost of institutional residential child abuse,” Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn said in a statement.

To make up the gap, Quinn said he would seek the congregations’ agreement to a legal deal that would transfer ownership of school buildings and properties to the state currently owned by them. “I recognise that there are complex legal issues to be addressed to realise the transfer of school infrastructure,” he said.  “Nevertheless I believe that this approach affords the congregations involved the opportunity to shoulder their share of the costs of responding to the horrendous wrongs suffered by children in their care, while at the same time, recognising the legitimate legacy of their contribution to Irish education.”