Look beyond headline stats to discover the true position

Look beyond headline stats to discover the true position Cherryfield nursing home in Milltown
Greg Daly, Chai Brady and Colm Fitzpatrick


Headline figures from the Charities Regulator can be somewhat misleading, according to Fr Bill Toner, Treasurer of Ireland’s Jesuits, who explains that in the first place the Irish province’s accounts are divided between a range of trusts.

“What happened with us is that the treasurer way, way back, long before my time, rather than setting up a single trust for the Jesuits set up trusts for every house, and the colleges had all different trusts. A few of them have sort of gathered here if you like,” he says, admitting “I’m afraid it’s a rather complicated picture.”


One common pattern across the accounts is that expenditure is consistently higher than income, Fr Toner says, although he maintains that this is partly due to increases in the value of investments not being counted as income.

“Unfortunately at the moment the only thing you see is the information we put in taken from the profit and loss account. We don’t put in the balance sheets and we can’t do it – it’s not allowed. We were thinking of putting in more information, but the regulator said they’re not permitted by law to display it,” he says.

“If you have, for instance, an investment of €10 million you could probably get about €300,000 a year out of that, but that doesn’t appear – all that appears is income,” he continues, adding that the Jesuits certainly couldn’t keep going based on the headline figures, where the “income could actually be quite small in a technical sense”.


Real incomes are very small nowadays, he says, since the order is no longer receiving teachers’ salaries and so forth. Instead, he says, it is mainly reliant on investments and is careful not to erode its capital reserves.

“We send in the full accounts to the charities regulator, but the only thing that’s displayed at the moment is those figures that we take out of the accounts. I’ve actually asked the regulator if we could put in the whole story: it’d be a bit complicated because we’d have to put all the trusts together, but he said no, we’re not allowed by the act,” he continues.

Describing this information as “very limited”, he says “the older charities survive through investments, and the capital growth in investments, but this is not displayed in the published accounts yet”.

Aside from healthcare at home, especially at the Cherryfield nursing home in Milltown, a major expenditure is formation abroad, he says.

“We send a lot of money to Rome for formation because they have more vocations in places like Africa and the Far East than they have money for. That would probably still be our biggest single item,” he says, adding that other expenses include education, communications, administration, spirituality, and the Centre for Faith and Justice and the Jesuit Refugee Service.

“We give a lot of donations, if we can. Part of our trusts would be the relief of poverty and we would give to those. Abroad, famine relief, or it could be in Ireland, the refurbishment of a church or something like that. We get a lot of appeals and can only answer some of them,” he says.

As things stand, then, things are sustainable for Ireland’s Jesuits

“We don’t have any immediate financial crisis – some of the other orders may have, but we don’t have,” he says.

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