Monday 22 December 2014

44 abuse claims face review after Louise O’Keeffe ruling

Katherine Donnelly, Education Editor

Published 05/02/2014 | 00:58

Louise O'Keeffe. Picture: Courtpix
Louise O'Keeffe. Picture: Courtpix

FORTY-four claims of child abuse in Irish schools which are currently being pursued are under review in light of the Louise O'Keeffe judgment.

The State Claims Agency (SCA) has advised the Department of Education that this was the number of such cases on its hands, Education Minister Ruairi told his cabinet colleagues.

Mr Quinn was updating ministers on the initial implications of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling in the Louise O'Keeffe case.

He has asked his department – along with the Attorney General's Office and the SCA – to review the 44 cases, and any others that may be relevant, to see whether they fall within the parameters of the ECHR judgment.

In a landmark victory, the ECHR found last week that the State had failed to protect Ms O’Keeffe from abuse in primary school.

She had been abused by principal Leo Hickey at Dunderrow National School, Co Cork, in the 1970s.

The State denied liability, insisting that it was the school board of management that was responsible.

The ECHR ordered that the Government pay Ms O'Keeffe €30,000 damages and €85,000  costs and expenses and arrangements are in train to do that.

Mr Quinn has endorsed the apology of the Taoiseach and the Tanaiste to Ms O'Keeffe.

He also said that he had every sympathy with those involved in school child abuse cases and that his intention was to seek a fair and reasonable outcome to those cases that came

within the parameters of the ECHR judgement as soon as possible.

Mr Quinn said that he would report back to the Government on the outcome of the review in the near future.

He is also seeking further legal advice on the full implications of the ECHR judgement in relation to child protection in schools and the general administration of the school system.

He said the Government was committed to ensuring the protection of children was paramount and that schools should be places of safety for children

Mr Quinn pointed out that none of the child protection architecture that is now in place was in place in 1973, when

Ms O'Keeffe suffered horrendous sexual abuse.

He said that since 1973 a number of important steps were taken to strengthen systems, including the Child Care Act in 1991.

Garda vetting has been a requirement for new teaching and non-teaching staff since September 2006.

Mr Quinn added that the launch of the Child and Family Agency last week and the implementation of the Children First Guidelines had very significantly improved the system of child protection.

He also announced that, with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, he had initiated a review of current and planned child protection systems – both generally and in schools – to ensure that they meet best practice standards.

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