Abuse victims barred from scheme ‘should be compensated’

Hundreds of sex abuse victims should be compensated by the State without having to prove a prior complaint was made to authorities, the Government will be told next week.

Fianna Fáil will table a private members’ motion seeking redress for victims abused by people who were employed in schools but who have already been convicted. Victims have been excluded from a redress scheme because they are unable to prove a prior complaint was made about the abuse.

The situation, and the interpretation of the law is “failing abysmally” to grant justice to sex abuse victims where perpetrators have not only been identified but have also been convicted, argues the Opposition party.

The position of victims, according to Fianna Fáil, is similar to that of Louise O’Keeffe, who was forced to take her case to the European courts on the basis that her abuser in a primary school was a teacher paid by the State.

The Government claims for other cases that victims of sex abuse in schools must show that their abuser was the subject of a prior complaint. Solicitors for victims say this is a “narrow interpretation” of the situation.

Fianna Fáil also says that only seven out-of-court settlements have been offered to date. The requirement for pre-conditions is also causing “huge distress” to victims involved, the party’s TDs say.

Limerick City TD Willie O’Dea is leading the motion, which will be heard in the Dáil next Wednesday. It is expected that a number of cases will be highlighted.

It is also understood that there may be disagreement at Government level on how to respond to Fianna Fáil motion.

While Education Minister Richard Bruton has adhered to the policy that prior complaints from victims are requirements, Independent Alliance members of the coalition feel differently. Discussion at Cabinet next week will decide the Government position overall.

When asked yesterday what position the Government would take on the Fianna Fáil motion, a spokeswoman for Mr Bruton said: “As is the case with all private members’ motions, the Government will consider it and determine its position next week.”

Fianna Fáil, though, will call for access to the State’s redress scheme for those citizens who were sexually abused in primary school, whose perpetrators have already been identified and convicted, to be granted on the same terms as has been afforded to those in residential institutions.


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