Legal experts and civil rights groups have said it is imperative that the Government open a public consultation on how redress schemes should operate.
The call comes in the wake of the review by High Court judge Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill, which found that the State had misinterpreted a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights and, as a result, had denied victims of child sexual abuse access to a redress scheme set up in 2015.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is currently drafting guidance on future redress schemes. This process was started as a result of commentary made by the comptroller and auditor general after the specific recommendation made by the Ombudsman in his scathing 2017 report into the Magdalene redress scheme.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said this review was being done in consultation with a range of departments, including the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Education and Skills. However, it confirmed that, “to date, no public call for submissions” on how redress schemes should operate has been made and that the guidelines will not specifically address the details of any particular redress issue”.
However, Maeve O’Rourke of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUIG and member of Justice for Magdalenes Research said it was vital that a public call for submissions on redress schemes does operate.
“It is imperative that the Government opens a public consultation on how future redress schemes should operate, with wide advertising,” said Dr O’Rourke.
“It should also hold public hearings for people who would like to discuss how they have been affected by past schemes and the recommendations they have for future ones.”
“It would be unacceptable for guidance to be drawn up in private, without direct input from those who have been affected by previous failings.”
A similar call was made by Justice for Magdalenes Research, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the National Women’s Council of Ireland and Sage Support and Advocacy Service in a January 2018 letter to Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.