Government may rule out formal redress scheme for abuse victims

Ruairí Quinn to set out preliminary response to European Court ruling in O’Keeffe case

Louise O’Keeffe: she has accepted an apology from the Taoiseach

Louise O’Keeffe: she has accepted an apology from the Taoiseach

Tue, Feb 4, 2014, 08:46

The Government is leaning against the adoption of a formal redress scheme for victims of abuse in State-run schools in its eventual response to the Louise O’Keeffe ruling of the European Court of Human Rights last week.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn will present preliminary observations on the ruling to the weekly meeting of the Cabinet this morning.

While he will seek approval to firm up policy proposals, specific measures today are unlikely.

The questions raised by the ruling are generally recognised to be complex legally and difficult politically. Taoiseach Enda Kenny has already apologised to Ms O’Keeffe and she has accepted the apology .

Last week the Strasbourg-based court overturned a Supreme Court ruling that the State was not responsible for the sexual abuse she suffered as a national school student in Cork.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said at the weekend that the question of a redress scheme for other victims was one of the issues to be considered.

Further questions surround the strength of existing child protection legislation and the implications for school patronage as a result of the ruling.

The latter is seen to be a matter that will require detailed legal work and no proposals from Mr Quinn are imminent. Mr Gilmore has said the issues raised in respect of the relationship between church and State were profound.

A Government source said there is clear reluctance in Cabinet circles to go down the road of developing a generalised scheme for all potential claimants who suffered abuse at school like Ms O’Keeffe.

This reflects deep-seated political anxiety to avoid repeating the experience of the Residential Institutions Redress Board, which was set up 12 years ago to compensate victims of abuse in such institutions.

When it was originally established, the board was expected to pay some €200 million to some 2,000 survivors of abuse and to complete its work withing three or five years.

By the start of this year, however, some 16,000 survivors of abuse had received €1.6 billion in compensation and most of the money was paid by the State.

With this in mind, at issue for the Cabinet is whether a mechanism to deal fairly with each outstanding case can be developed without prompting further claims .

A formal review is likely to be undertaken into all outstanding claims against the State in cases similar to that of Ms O’Keeffe. This will examine cases already initiated and the potential for further cases.