While an apology issued to abuse survivors has been cautiously welcomed, survivors have now called on the Government to expedite access to the redress they are legally entitled to.
This follows an apology issued by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on behalf of the State to victims of sexual abuse in day schools for the difficulty in accessing an ex gratia [out of court] scheme set up to compensate them.
John Boland, one of 19 men abused at Creagh Lane National School in Limerick who have been denied access to the scheme, said he cautiously welcomes the apology.
“I will accept the apology - if they put their money where their mouth is - because every visiting minister and TD that has come to town has apologised to us. They now need to remove all the obstacles in our way to accessing redress. We are all in our 60s and we are all in different stages of health. The money provided through the scheme would prove their apology. It would give a bit of support to my family, to all our families.”
Christopher Rainbow, another former student of Creagh Lane National School, said the Taoiseach must now act on his words - "Otherwise they were hollow and shallow utterances in the chamber."
Cork woman, Louise O’Keeffe, whose landmark case in the European Court of Human Rights led to the ex gratia scheme being set up in 2015, believes it was important the Taoiseach's apology was read into the Dáil record.
The apology is as important for people who are still silent, just as much as for people who pursued cases. We are only representing the people who came forward. There are hundreds more who we must remember. It is not about the money, it is the acknowledgement that something happened to you that shouldn’t have, that the State failed to protect you and that the State should have never behaved the way it has.
While Mr Varadkar has committed to examining the ex gratia scheme for all other applicants, no confirmed changes have yet been announced. Education Minister Joe McHugh has also met with the Attorney General to discuss the review's findings.
“There is only one reason to seek advice from the Attorney General and that is to try to find a way to limit the number of payments that will be made,” said Dr Conor O’Mahony, director of the Child Law Clinic at University College Cork (UCC).
"No legal advice would be necessary if the decision had been taken to compensate all victims. This could be done at the stroke of a pen. If the apology is to mean anything, it must be backed up with meaningful redress. Abuse survivors are not interested in further platitudes in the Dáil. They need the redress that they are legally entitled to.”
A review of 19 applications denied access to the scheme, carried out by retired High Court Judge Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill, found that the requirement on survivors to provide evidence of a prior complaint made against an abuser is “inherently illogical". The Department of Education declined to comment on questions about the specifics of the review put to it by the Irish Examiner, referring to the Taoiseach's statement in the Dáil on Tuesday.