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Government opposition to Fianna Fáil motion on abuse victim redress
Coleman Legal LLP
July 05, 2018

Primary school children victims of sexual abuse could seek redress from the State


A motion put forward by Fianna Fáil to ensure all survivors of child sex abuse in primary school can seek redress from the State is being opposed by the Government has been opposed by the Government.


The motion seeks to amend the scheme for ex-gratia payments from the State to victims further to a European Court of Human Rights decision. It found the State had provided inadequate protection against child abuse in national schools. The Fiánna Fail deputy tabling the motion, Willie O’Dea has said he was ‘appalled and flabbergasted” at the Government’s refusal to accept the motion, describing their attitude to the victims as “coldly adversarial”. He stated that the maximum cost of any claims would be €15m and that those affected had lived “broken lives” and had been robbed of their potential. Mr O’Dea clarified that this motion was not about the money but:


“It’s about the State making a tangible gesture as evidence of its good faith and an admission that a wrong was done to these people whilst they were under the control of the State by people whose salaries were paid by the State.”

The leader of Fianna Fáil, Micheál Martin has said that the government took a very narrow definition of the European Court of Human Rights decision made in the Louise O’Keeffe case (the victim of child sex abuse in Cork in the 1970’s, whereby there was a systemic neglect that should have instead protected children in general) He said he:

finds it very difficult to comprehend the absence of any genuine compassion in relation to the case of the survivors of child sex abuse in primary schools.”

In response to the motion, the MInister for Education,Richard Bruton said:

“No one can doubt that child sex abuse is one of the most appalling crimes that can visit because it is inflicted on people in their most vulnerable years and it is done by persons in positions of trust.”

The Minister for Education assured that there would be no effort spared in making sure that there was a rightful enforcement of child protection measures. He continued by saying that there was absolutely no doubt as to the issue of liability on the part of the perpetrators of the abuse suffered by children in primary schools and indeed on the part of those who oversaw them.

“In the case of industrial schools the State failed. The State had responsibility for the management of those schools. It was the State who sent children to these schools, licenced those schools, inspected those schools and the State failed catastrophically.”

However, when discussing the matter of primary schools, he added that the issue of State liability here was regarded differently and that the State didn’t enrol the children in these schools which weren’t State institutions and the State didn’t recruit, employ or manage the staff in these schools. He said:

there is absolutely no desire on the part of the State not to pay out in the case where there are circumstances similar to those found in the judgement in the O’Keeffe case” and he has appointed an independent former High Court judge to assess the cases put before him. Other politicians have deemed the Government’s response to this matter as ‘shocking’ and called for them to “stop abusing survivors all over again and do the right thing.”

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Clodagh Magennis

Clodagh Magennis

Head of Client Services

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