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The State sent 'intimidating' legal letters to abuse survivors about their legal actions

O’Keeffe won a landmark legal against the Irish State in the European Court of Human Rights.

Image: Shutterstock/KieferPix

PEOPLE ABUSED WHILE in Irish national schools have received letters from lawyers representing the Department of Education, advising them that they face significant costs if they are not successful in legal cases against the department.

Two years ago, abuse victim Louise O’Keeffe won a landmark European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling which found that the Irish State bore responsibility for the sexual abuse she was subjected to while attending a national school.

She had earlier lost her case in Irish courts but the ECHR found in her favour.

Speaking this afternoon on RTÉ’s News at One, O’Keeffe said that the letters show that the State ‘hasn’t learnt’ from how it treated abuse victims in the past.

“I’m surprised and yet not surprised at the same time,” she said.

I had hoped that following the past the State would have learned its lesson in not sending out letters like they have done so this week to survivors of such abuse in national school.

“This is the third time such letters have been sent and really it is disheartening to say the least.”

O’Keeffe went on to say that the letters amount to intimidation by the State.

“These letters are no more than the letters were in the past and try by intimidation to get people to drop their cases against the State. The State is afraid of people who will stand up for justice,” she said.

Speaking on the same programme, Minister for Education Richard Bruton said that the letters were about informing people that there are other options available beyond court cases.

“There were cases recently that were rejected by the High Court and we have to respect legal cases,” the minister said.

The High Court decided that some legal cases could not be pursued. What this is doing is offering to bring these to a close so there would not be costs being borne by people who are pursuing such cases.   

“We have an ex-gratia system to try and provide for people who have been impacted in this way and they can apply to the State Claims Agency for support.”

Read: Louise O’Keeffe accuses State of ‘taking advantage’ of abuse survivors >

Read: Landmark European judgement finds Irish State liable for sexual abuse >

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Rónán Duffy

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