Autistic man to receive €275,000 settlement


A 23-year-old autistic man, described as unnecessarily disturbed and unhappy due to the State's alleged "gross dereliction" of its constitutional obligations to him, is to receive €275,000 and costs in settlement of his action against the State. The High Court yesterday approved the settlement, which was without admission of liability.

The case was the first of its kind to come before the courts since the Sinnott case, in which the Supreme Court overturned a High Court decision that the State had a constitutional obligation to provide educational and ancillary health services for autistic persons over the age of 18.

Mr Shane O'Mahony, of Sweeetbriar Lane, Inniscarra View, Ballincollig, Co Cork, had sued the Minister for Education and Science; the Minister for Health; Ireland; the Attorney General and the Southern Health Board (SHB).

Following day-long talks between lawyers yesterday, Mr Michael Gleeson SC, for Shane, told Mr Justice Lavan the matter had been settled subject to the judge's ruling.

He said the Ministers for Education and Science and Health had agreed to pay Mr O'Mahony €275,000 damages in respect of all claims. The two Ministers would also pay Shane's costs, including the costs of taking him into court wardship. The claims against the other defendants could be struck out. A health care plan had been drawn up by the SHB to provide for Shane but it is not part of the formal court order.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Lavan told Shane's mother, Mrs Maud O'Mahony, that he recognised the difficult life she had had for the past 23 years. On the application of Mr Gleeson, he directed that €75,000 be paid out to Mrs O'Mahony and her husband, Pat.

Counsel said it could easily be contended that every penny of the settlement should go to the parents because they had spent so much over the years trying to produce what the State was obliged to produce and had failed to produce in assessments and therapies.

Mrs O'Mahony - who has three other children - thanked the judge for the time allowed and said she also wanted to thank her legal advisers. In his action, Mr O'Mahony claimed he was diagnosed autistic at the age of two years and four months. He received therapy on a private basis in 1991/1992 and his mother taught him at home during that period. He went to pre-school on a a few occasions in 1981 and was extremely upset.

His mother educated him at home until April 1985. He spent some periods in schools in Co Cork. Mr Gleeson said the educational and health facilities appropriate to Shane had been inadequate for many years.