State agency to examine ‘dropped’ school sex abuse claims

The State Claims Agency (SCA) is expected to examine dozens of school sex abuse claims that were withdrawn following a stark 2009 government warning that it would pursue its costs if the alleged victims lost their cases.

The review follows a promise by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn in the wake of the Louise O’Keeffe judgment that the Government’s response to child sex abuse cases in schools will be “fair and reasonable”.

The SCA has told the minister there are 44 cases pending in the legal system and he has asked the agency and the Attorney General to review them. In 2009 there were up to 135 cases but many were dropped following the government warning.

Last night Department of Education sources said the 44 cases, and others from 2009, will be reviewed “to see if these fall into the parameters of the Louise O’Keeffe judgment in the legal system”.

Mr Quinn yesterday delivered a preliminary update briefing to his ministerial colleagues on the implications of last week’s European Court of Human Rights judgment.

The Strasbourg-based court overturned a Supreme Court ruling that said the State was not responsible for the abuse Ms O’Keeffe suffered as a young child in a national school in Co Cork.

Mr Quinn endorsed the apologies of the Taoiseach and Tánaiste and said he had every sympathy with those involved in child sex abuse cases.

The minister said that since 1973 “when Louise O’Keeffe suffered horrendous sexual abuse”, a comprehensive set of child protection measures has been put in place.

“In the area of schools, Garda vetting has been a requirement for new teaching and non- teaching staff since September 2006 and the Department of Education and Skills has been working closely with the Department of Justice and Equality and the Office of the Attorney General on the implementation of the National Vetting Bureau Act in the education sector.”

The Government said arrangements are being made to pay the €30,000 damages and €85,000 in costs and expenses to Ms O’Keeffe and her legal representatives.

Before yesterday’s Cabinet meeting Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he could not give reassurances sexual abuse would not continue. “It’s a horrible thing to have to say, it’s an aspect of human nature that’s scarred our memory,” he said.


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