Taoiseach must honour promises to compensate abuse victims, says Louise O'Keeffe

There is no reason why Taoiseach Micheál Martin, cannot deliver on promises to compensate children sexually abused while attending school, a lawyer representing several survivors has said.
Taoiseach must honour promises to compensate abuse victims, says Louise O'Keeffe
Louise O'Keeffe who was the victim of sexual abuse pictured outside Dunderrow National School, Kinsale, Co. Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan
Louise O'Keeffe who was the victim of sexual abuse pictured outside Dunderrow National School, Kinsale, Co. Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan

There is no reason why Taoiseach Micheál Martin, cannot deliver on promises to compensate children sexually abused while attending school, a lawyer representing several survivors has said.

Solicitor James MacGuill was responding to the call by Louise O'Keeffe on both Mr Martin and Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, to keep commitments to compensate victims of sexual abuse in day schools.

Mr Martin, a former Minister for Education, already had an extremely good knowledge of the issue, he pointed out during an interview on RTÉ radio.

“There is no reason why Micheál Martin cannot take possession of this now himself using his expertise, and simply deliver,” said Mr MacGuill.

In a letter to the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and newly appointed Minister for Education, Norma Foley, Ms O'Keeffe said the European Court of Human Rights had ruled in January 2014 that the State had failed to protect her as an eight-year-old schoolgirl.

Ms O'Keeffe, who was sexually abused by her teacher in a Co Cork primary school in the 1970s, reminded both Mr Martin and Dr Varadkar of promises they made in a Dáil debate on the issue in July last year.

She also reminded Mr Martin that 22 years ago he was Minister for Education when she commenced her civil legal case.

“It would be shameful to allow another month pass without righting the wrongs done to innocent children, never mind the possibility of 22 more years," she said.

Ms O'Keeffe said the relevant departments and the Attorney General's office should be in a position to advise immediately so further action need not be delayed.

“I would urge you to reopen the ex gratia scheme expeditiously and end the continued suffering of those sexually abused in day schools.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin called on to honour promises to victims of sex abuse in schools. Picture: Conor McCabe Photography
Taoiseach Micheál Martin called on to honour promises to victims of sex abuse in schools. Picture: Conor McCabe Photography

A government spokesperson said the Taoiseach was acutely aware of the concerns of victims of child abuse in primary schools and would be engaging with the Department of Education to progress the matter.

The Government had interpreted the European Court ruling that it was only liable for damages in cases there had been a prior complaint against an abuser and it was not liable for damages if there had not been a prior complaint.

When Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill reviewed the ruling last year he considered that the State was wrong in its interpretation of the judgement which led it to close off an ex-gratia payment scheme for survivors of sexual abuse.

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