Sunday 25 August 2019

'Beyond time State owns up to responsibility to abuse survivors' - Louise O'Keeffe says as no payments made under compensation scheme

Louise O'Keeffe
Louise O'Keeffe
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

ABUSE survivor Louise O’Keeffe has said it is “beyond time” the State owns up to letting down children who suffered abuse in schools.

Ms O’Keeffe won a landmark case in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in 2014, when the court found that the Irish State had been negligent in failing to protect her from abuse in primary school.

In the wake of that judgement the Government established an ex-gratia payment scheme to allow victims to be compensated via an out-of-court process.

However, it has now emerged that no payments have been made despite more than 50 applications over a four year period.

Ms O’Keeffe told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that this was “not surprising” to her because she did not believe the judgement she secured had changed the approach of the government at all, who have taken a narrow view of it she said.

The scheme has come in for sharp criticism as there is a requirement for victims to prove that their abuser had already been reported to authorities for similar crimes before abusing them.

The Dáil previously voted to remove that ‘prior complaint’ clause but it remains in place.

“It is beyond time that the Government stood up and acknowledged what they did not do - they did not look after the children in our primary schools...They just let them down,” she said.

“They need to stand up to the responsibility that was and is theirs for the children in the schools....They were supposed to protect them, they are supposed to protect them,” Ms O'Keeffe said.

The Cork woman said she was failed by the State from the day she started school and called for a State apology to all victims, not just for the abuse suffered but for the delays in being compensated.

“They continue to fail me because of the fact that they are not acknowledging the essence of the judgement that came in Europe,” she added.

The Department of Education has said that the prior complaint requirement must be fulfilled to  demonstrate that the State “could or should” have had knowledge of the dangers posed by the perpetrator.

In a statement to the programme the department said that some cases had been settled outside of the confines of the ex-gratia scheme and said that 44 applications to the scheme that have been declined can be submitted for an independent assessment.

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