Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny raised the case of Louise O’Keeffe who unsuccessfully sued the State in relation to abuse she suffered in Dunderrow National School in Co Cork.
Mr Kenny pointed out that Ms O’Keeffe, who won her case against her abuser but not against the State, now faced legal costs of €500,000.
He berated the Department of Education for writing a letter to victims of sexual abuse that occurred in day schools, informing them that the State had no responsibility and they should pursue boards of management. He said the State had a constitutional duty to protect children.
“If that’s the case, we have come to a new low where he will not even accept any moral responsibility for an outrage that happened in so many cases throughout the land,” he claimed.
Mr Ahern replied that the State Claims Agency had been asked to handle the issue of costs in a sensitive manner and had informed Ms O’Keeffe’s solicitor that “while the same arrangements would have to be made in respect of costs, there was no question whatsoever of her losing her house, which was the issue.”
Mr Ahern said: “While I feel deeply sorry for the victims, the courts have found that the State was not liable in this regard.”
Mr Kenny said the Government had refused to accept responsibility for sexual abuse of children in day schools across the country.