3,000 new claims for abuse payments submitted

 

ALMOST 3,000 former residents of reformatory schools and orphanages submitted applications for abuse compensation in the two months before the final September 16th deadline.

The Residential Institutional Redress Board was set up in 2002 to deal with former residents of 139 State-linked industrial and reformatory schools, orphanages and children’s homes who suffered abuse.

In July legislation was enacted to close off the power of the board to deal with further applications after September 16th.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said the closing date announcement “effectively produced nearly 3,000 fresh applications a number of years after the publicity surrounding the board had died down”.

Mr Quinn has rejected calls for the deadline to be extended for “exceptional cases” and pointed out that the board had been in place for more than 8½ years, and the initial closing date was five-and-a-half years ago. He was satisfied sufficient time had been given to potential applicants.

Since the board was established, almost 18,000 applications for compensation have been received, and almost 15,000 were finalised by July. The scheme was originally estimated to cost €1.1 billion but is likely to reach €1.3 billion. By the end of last year expenditure hit €1.05 billion including €836 million in awards and €158 million in legal and medical costs.

Fianna Fáil education spokesman Brendan Smith expressed concern about the deadline because of contact from a number of people involved with survivors of residential abuse. They said the trend was that late applications typically tended to be “from people who were the most vulnerable survivors of the industrial school system. I’m worried there might still be a small cohort of people who are very vulnerable and who, unfortunately, will not have submitted their applications on time”.

Mr Quinn revealed in the Dáil that 2,676 claims were submitted in the last two months, which were being processed. Some had been accepted, others rejected. “In all honesty, a reasonable window of time has been provided,” he said.

Sinn Féin education spokesman Seán Crowe questioned the closing of the scheme on an “arbitrary date”. There were many abuse victims who “are still trying to work out in their own heads whether to seek redress. There needs to be a window in which they can do this”.

But the Minister said that “even if a person was so badly damaged from his or her experience as to be unable to make a proper application there was no shortage of lawyers prepared to do it. It had to be brought to an end”.

He added that after the announcement of the deadline a number of legal firms placed ads in Irish journals in Britain and elsewhere and representatives of Irish groups abroad were informed.