Government to take Supreme Court challenge to redress ruling

 

The Government is to take a Supreme Court challenge to a High Court ruling last month that said a law restricting redress for abuse in residential institutions to children under 18 is unconstitutional.

In a ruling delivered on November 11th the High Court found that the provision in the 2002 law restricting redress to children under 18 also amounted to an "unjustifiable discrimination" on grounds of age as the abuse occurred when persons under 21 were regarded in law as children.

The challenge to provisions of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002 was brought by a woman who had turned 18 days before she was admitted to St Patrick's Mother and Baby Home on the Navan Road, Dublin, in 1968 after becoming pregnant allegedly by an older brother.

She suffered abuse at the mother and baby home, where she remained until 1969, but was deemed not to be entitled to redress as she was over 18 at the time of the abuse. Her baby was taken from her and placed for adoption.

Her younger sister, also pregnant allegedly by an older brother, was admitted to the same home on the same day and ultimately secured redress for abuse suffered there because she was under 18. Both girls alleged they had been abused in the family home for 10 or 11 years by their two older brothers.

Section 1.1 of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002 defines a "child" as a person under 18 and section 7 of the Act provides redress may only be paid to a child.

Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill ruled in November that the definition of "child" as a person under 18 years and cognate words, including childhood in section 1.1, is unconstitutional.

He said the State's "understandable desire" to clearly limit the extent of the redress scheme by introducing an age limit could not justify excluding from the scheme persons who enjoyed in law the status of children during the time they were resident in a residential institution.

A statement released by Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe this afternoon said “following consideration of the judgement by my Department, in consultation with the legal team, it has been decided to appeal the judgement to the Supreme Court.”

The statement said a stay had been put on the High Court judgement pending the outcome of the appeal.