Wednesday 21 August 2019

Taoiseach publicly apologises to school sex abuse victims – and pledges compensation – Dáil told

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: PA
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: PA
John Downing

John Downing

THE Taoiseach has apologised to victims of sex abuse in schools and pledged an early move on compensation.

Leo Varadkar’s statement to the Dáil follows a ruling on Tuesday by Judge Iarflaith O’Neill. The Judge said the Government had misinterpreted a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in a case taken by Cork woman, Louise O’Keeffe.

Ms O’Keeffe won a marathon court battle to establish the State had responsibility for sexual abuse of her by a teacher while she was in school. But it later transpired that other people in similar cases were being obliged to show that they had made prior complaints about the sex abuse.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said Judge O’Neill’s ruling showed that the authorities were wrong in their interpretation of the European Court ruling. He also said the State had seriously failed brave people like Louise O’Keeffe, placing unreasonable barriers to their achieving justice, and he challenged the Taoiseach to explain what action was now proposed.

Replying, the Taoiseach said he deplored sexual abuse – especially that done to children.  He formally apologised in the Dáil to Ms O’Keeffe and others in similar circumstances.

Mr Varadkar also said an apology was no good without action and that the Education Minister, Joe McHugh, would make an announcement on the issue tomorrow.  He said the compensation scheme will be re-opened to deal with these cases.

The Taoiseach said he accepted that people like Ms O’Keeffe were originally failed by the denial of State responsibility – and failed secondly when the stipulation of the need for a prior complaint was invoked.

“We will not fail them a third time,” Mr Varadkar said. In reply again to the Fianna Fáil leader, Mr Varadkar said it was undoubtedly the Government’s intention to re-open the compensation scheme and amend it appropriately.

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