‘Foot dragging state’ shuts out victims of sexual abuse – McDonald
Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD, speaking during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil today, raised the issue of the State’s approach to school sexual abuse with Minister for Education Richard Bruton.
The exchange coincides with a High Court hearing on the issue of costs on foot of a case taken by sex abuse victims against the State.
Deputy McDonald said:
“In the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Louise O’Keeffe, the State Claims Agency wrote to similar victims and told them if they continued with their cases, the State would pursue them for costs.
“Faced with the prospect of legal bills of hundreds of thousands of euros and a Supreme Court ruling against them, 210 of the victims dropped their cases.
“After years of injustice, Louise O’Keeffe eventually obtained a judgment in her favour in the European Court of Human Rights.
“That judgment found the State in breach of its obligation to protect school children from sexual abuse and in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.
“Five victims have sought to have their notice of discontinuance set aside in the High Court in the aftermath of Louise’s case and have their day in court.
“The State continues to prevent these victims pursuing their search for justice, and have contested the cases.
“Mr Justice Barrett, in a recent High Court ruling on the matter, pondered whether the victims ‘will ever see the day when such injustice as may be done to them is finally righted by a foot dragging State’.
“To date, only six of the original 250 litigants have received offers of compensation from the State and of the 50 cases that have been decided by the State Claims Agency, 43 have been declined due to the state’s narrow interpretation of the O’Keeffe judgement.
“I am seeking an immediate commitment that the State will not pursue costs in this case and will finally ensure that these victims are able to access the justice they deserve.”