State sued over 'quasi servitude'
A MAN has sued the State alleging that, when a nine-year-old orphan, he was wrongfully “boarded out” to work in a position “of quasi-servitude” as a farm boy.
The now 50-year-old man is also suing a religious order that ran the orphanage where he had lived from when he was a baby until he was boarded out.
He alleges he was sexually abused by other children in the orphanage.
The HSE, the Minister for Health and the religious order deny his claim and have asked the court to strike out his case on grounds of “inordinate and inexcusable” delay. The case was begun 12 years ago.
Mr Justice Gerard Hogan yesterday adjourned their application for five weeks after being told the Residential Institutions Redress Board is dealing with his claim for compensation and it may not be necessary for the court to address the matter.
Suzanne Boylan, counsel for the man, said he initiated the High Court proceedings before the redress board claim. While the board had recently sanctioned an interim payment of €10,000 for him, it had reserved its position on compensation for his period of “boarding out” as a farm boy, she said.
The man is unwell and not in a position to give immediate instructions, counsel added.
Ms Boylan said she wanted an adjournment to take instructions but hoped the matter could be resolved through the redress board. If that happened, all that she expected to seek from the court were legal costs.
Gerard Clarke SC, for the Minister, Ireland and the Attorney General, said his side wanted the court to hear its application for the matter to be struck out on grounds of delay.
Mr Clarke said the man’s claim against the State authorities related to a period from 1971 to 1981 when he was boarded out to a brother and sister in the west of Ireland. He had attended a respected secondary school in Sligo and University College Galway and went on to obtain a professional qualification.
The brother and sister to whom he was boarded out had since died and there was no one else to give evidence as to his treatment, counsel said. The State’s ability to defend the case was therefore completely and totally prejudiced.
Mr Justice Hogan noted the man’s claim appeared to be that he was held in a position of quasi-servitude while boarded out.
If the redress board resolved the matter in his favour, legal costs would be the only outstanding matter, the judge said. He “earnestly hoped” a decision could be made by the board before the case returned before him in five weeks, he added.