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Dáil apology from Taoiseach after judge's finding that abuse redress scheme is 'inherently illogical'

A retired judge said that the State’s approach showed an “inherent inversion of logic and a fundamental unfairness to applicants”.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has apologised on behalf of the State to victims of sexual abuse in day schools. 

The apology comes after a ruling found that the State has misinterpreted a European court ruling in relation to the survivors of school sexual abuse and the requirements they must meet in order to avail of redress.

The government had argued that the ECHR decision applies only to people who were abused after an initial complaint was made against a teacher and no action was taken.

The conclusion, published yesterday, said it was “inherently illogical” of the State to demand evidence when there was no “State controlled mechanism for detecting and reporting incidents of child sexual abuse in National Schools”.

“For the State to insist on such a precondition to eligibility involves an inherent inversion of logic and a fundamental unfairness to applicants,” retired judge Iarfhlaith O’Neill found. 

I have no hesitation in concluding that judgement of the ECtHR does not expressly or by any permissible or possible implication contain such reasoning.

In January 2014, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Irish State failed to protect Louise O’Keeffe from abuse by her school principal.

In its judgement, the ECHR said that the State “had to have been aware of the level of sexual crime against minors” as a result of a number of reports from the 1930s to the 1970s.

Following the ECHR ruling, the State said it would make settlement offers of up to €84,000 to people with cases similar to O’Keefe’s but only seven people have received settlements in the four years since.

Apology

Speaking during Leader’s Questions today, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: 

 I believe that sexual abuse is the most heinous of all crimes especially when the victims are children. It stays with them forever, trust is betrayed, lives forever destroyed and families broken.
On behalf of the State, I want to apologise to people who were sexually abused when they were children in their day schools before 1992 and for the State’s delay thereafter in acknowledging it had a responsibility to protect them. 

Varadkar said “procedures should have been in place before 1992 to record and act on allegations of sexual abuse by teachers and staff”.

He confirmed that the State will now make payments to the 13 people whose appeals have been successful “without undue delay”. 

“It is clear there are other cases where survivors did not appeal or survivors did not apply in the first place. These will have to be re-examined. This may involve reopening the scheme,” Varadkar said.

The Taoiseach added that he has asked Minister for Education Joe McHugh to “prepare options for government in consultation with the Attorney General”. 

Earlier today, Louise O’Keeffe told RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland that there is now an “absolute onus” on the State to review all cases, both pending and discontinued. 

“All of those cases must be reviewed and they must own up to the responsibility that was theirs and is theirs to get this right. It is time to get this right,” O’Keeffe said. 

“For the past five and a half years [the State] have fought every other victim and they have used a prior complaint as the big issue and they were wrong. They simply must come out, they must sort out, they must own up to responsibility,” she said. 

I absolutely believe that there is an absolute onus on both the Taoiseach and the Minister for Education to go into the Dáil today and apologise to each and every one of those victims. It is essential that it is done quickly, it must be done today. 

O’Keeffe said the apology should be made on Dáil record. 

This afternoon, Varadkar noted the campaign work O’Keeffe has done through the years. 

“I want to recognise the campaigning and advocacy role with Louise O’Keeffe on her own behalf and on behalf of others,” Varadkar said.

Without meaningful actions apologies on their own don’t count for very much and the best apology we can make to Louise O’Keeffe and to all other survivors is to say that further action will now be taken.

Varadkar confirmed that McHugh will make a further statement on the matter tomorrow afternoon. 

TheJournal.ie has spoken to a number of men who were sexually abused by their teachers as children but have never received redress – John Allen who attended North Monastery CBS in Cork and Christopher Rainbow and Thomas Hogan who went to Creagh Lane National School in Limerick. Hogan is taking his own case to Europe.

With reporting by Gráinne Ní Aodha and Christina Finn

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