Department of Education ‘trying to frighten off most vulnerable’

Sex abuse victims and opposition TDs have accused the Department of Education of “trying to frighten off some of the most vulnerable” by threatening day school victims with hefty legal bills.

John Allen, from Mayfield in Cork City, said the department “has no moral qualms about spending far more on defence lawyers than they would ever have spent on damages”.

“They have no qualms either around trying to frighten off some of the most vulnerable people, people they failed to protect originally,” said Mr Allen.

A decision on whether Mr Allen and other victims will have to pay costs was due to be made in the High Court yesterday but was adjourned.

Nr Allen has been fighting for the right to sue the department for the sexual abuse he suffered in Cork’s North Monastery. It follows Louise O’Keeffe’s acclaimed victory in the European Court of Human Rights.

In recent weeks, the High Court ruled against him and the other victims, deeming that notices of discontinuance they signed in 2008, before the ECHR victory, were akin to a legal binding settlement that can’t be reopened.

During leader’s questions yesterday, Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald accused the State of “ preventing these victims pursuing their search for justice”.

Education Minister Richard Bruton said some such victims have received ex gratia payments from the State redress scheme and added that the costs issue is being dealt with by the courts.

The Child Law Clinic at UCC and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission are both contesting how the State interpreted the O’Keeffe judgment in its redress scheme.

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