Thalidomide survivors reject State offer

Future agreement will now be offset against German compensation payments

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan, who was asked to decide on the offer on behalf of  two thalidomide survivors, declined to approve the package. Photograph: Ronan Quinlan/Collins

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan, who was asked to decide on the offer on behalf of two thalidomide survivors, declined to approve the package. Photograph: Ronan Quinlan/Collins

Sat, Aug 3, 2013, 01:00



The majority of the 32 Irish thalidomide survivors have rejected a €62,500 per person compensation offer from the Government.

Survivors were given just 6½ hours on Wednesday evening to decide whether to accept the full and final settlement offered by the Government before financial conditions worsened. The Irish Thalidomide Association yesterday accused the Government of “putting a gun to the head” of its members by insisting on a final settlement at such short notice.

Two survivors who are severely brain damaged and lack the mental capacity to assess the offer themselves were the subject of a High Court hearing late on Wednesday evening. Mr Justice Paul Gilligan, who was asked to decide on the offer on behalf of the two survivors, declined to approve the package. The judge ruled it was inadequate given their diagnosis and care needs.

Interim basis

Malcolmson Law, solicitors for the group, said fewer than one-third of its clients had accepted the State’s offer. The Department of Health said there were six acceptances.

Survivors had sought the payment of €62,500 to each person on an interim basis with the rest of the settlement to be agreed through mediation in the autumn, but the State’s offer on Wednesday was presented as a full and final settlement.

It was made hours before a change in the terms of the compensation paid by a German foundation for the health problems caused by the drug. From August 1st, it increased the payments to survivors by between 140 per cent and 500 per cent. From this date, Irish survivors will receive tax-free payments of up to €6,912 per month, with the majority receiving more than €4,000 a month, Minister of State at the Department of Health Kathleen Lynch told the Dáil last month.

However, under a new condition attached to the payments, all monies paid by other governments, including the Irish State, are to be offset against these payments from Germany.

Unless this is challenged legally, it means that any settlement by Irish survivors with the Government here will not benefit them financially, as the sums involved would be offset against the German payments.

Those Irish survivors who rejected the State’s last-minute offer will now have to decide whether to proceed with their legal actions.

Finola Cassidy of the Irish Thalidomide Association said members were still “reeling” from the event of last Wednesday and the Government’s “bully-boy” approach.

The department said last night it acted in good faith, and said solicitors for the survivors suggested that payments be made ahead of the German deadline to avoid running foul of the new arrangements. As a result, the State Claims Agency repeated the offer first made in 2010.

A spokeswoman said the State remained committed to discussions regarding further supports.

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to reopen discussions with the ITA about further compensation for victims.