Army deafness saga finally nears an end
Over €100m paid out in legal fees since first claims 20 years ago
Twenty years after it first emerged, the end of the Army deafness scheme saga is almost in sight after costing taxpayers €321m -- a third of which went to solicitors and barristers.
Defence Minister Willie O'Dea has said that 16,139 (or approximately 96 per cent) of 16,807 legal claims for Army deafness and personal injury have now been disposed of.
So far, €288m in costs have been incurred in compensation and legal fees for plaintiffs with just over €100m of this consisting of legal costs and medical reports.
The most recent figures given by Mr O'Dea to Fine Gael's Jim O'Keeffe also reveal that 10 solicitors' firms earned more than €1.8m from the legal saga with Patrick V Boland and Son of Newbridge, Co Kildare, earning a grand total of €16.2m.
One of the legal beneficiaries is the current chairman of the Planning and Payments Tribunal, Alan Mahon, who acted as a barrister in a large number of the claims lodged before he was appointed to the tribunal in 2002.
However, since the Minister for Defence delegated the management of new and outstanding claims to the State Claims Agency (SCA) back in 2005 there has been a rapid deceleration in legal costs.
Since then, the department has paid out €1.2m in plaintiff costs and €1.4m in agency legal and related costs to the SCA which has gone on to resolve 851 cases.
When compared with the costs of the previous 15,300 cases, this represents a decrease in legal costs per plaintiff of just over 400 per cent.
The minister also added that it is believed the costs of the remaining 417 currently active cases will come to approximately €8m.