Abuse victims may go to court over funds body

SURVIVORS of institutional abuse have threatened legal action if an independent trust is not set up to administer a multi-million euro education fund for victims and their families.

The existing body, set up by the Government to hand out €12.7m in cash, has been dismissed by Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA) as a front for the Department of Education.

SOCA’s John Kelly also questioned the legality of Health Minister Micheal Martin giving the green light to the disbursement of funds without first seeking approval from the Dáil.

He argues that it is not the minister’s money to give away.

But the National Office for Victims of Abuse (NOVA) said it had been charged with administering the money, part of a €128m package agreed between the Government and 18 religious congregations, and that it aims to do so as promptly as possible.

NOVA has asked for written submissions from interested parties on how best to distribute the money, to be delivered before 5pm on May 30.

Current plans call for the fund to be operational for the start of the academic year in September.

The €12.7m is to help pay for the educational needs of victims Of the five groups representing victims, all but SOCA are represented on NOVA’s management committee.

NOVA’s manager Kevin Brady said SOCA representatives are entitled to their opinions, but could make their arguments in written submissions.

“If they want to deny their membership a say then that’s fine,” said Mr Brady.

Regarding the threat of legal action and the consequent inevitable delay in handing over money, Mr Brady said this would deny victims an early chance at benefiting from the fund.

Mr Kelly said NOVA is a group set up and financed by the Department of Education. Neither the victims nor the department should be charged with administering the fund, he said.

“The money itself should be passed on to a health and educational trust,” he said. “It should be independent and run professionally, set up for the needs of the victims.”

He said the deadline for submissions was extremely tight, and claimed NOVA was trying to rush through the introduction of the scheme in order to head off legal action.

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