Tuesday 16 January 2018

Thalidomide survivors to sue after oversight in original deal

Ailish O'Hora

A number of the 32 Irish Thalidomide survivors will start suing the Government later today after it emerged an original settlement made to them in the 1970s did not receive the necessary legal approval.

The Irish Independent has learned the decision to take legal action was made because the High Court never approved the settlement -- a move which was necessary to ensure the fairness and effectiveness of the arrangement.

It is not known why this oversight arose. But sources at the Irish Thalidomide Association (ITA) said yesterday that if the court had received an application at that time, the settlement may not have been approved.

"This is because some of the children became injured in the womb at a time the risks associated with the drug was also known," the source said.

Thalidomide was a drug marketed internationally to pregnant women in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a treatment for morning sickness.

Thousands of babies were born with birth defects after the pill was made available without proper research.

There are only 32 survivors left in Ireland, with an average age of 50.


The move by the survivors also comes after Health Minister Mary Harney yesterday refused to increase a settlement of €2m for them which was originally made earlier this year.

The ITA rejected the €62,500 ex-gratia payment to the 32 survivors, describing it as inadequate.

"If this was an interim arrangement we would consider it but a 'one size fits all' solution is not acceptable as many of us have different levels of disabilities," said Finola Cassidy, a survivor and spokeswoman for the ITA.

Ms Harney said she was "very disappointed with the response" to the offer, which included provisions for special care packages, but warned that the Government was not for turning. She added the offer also involved an annual lump sum, in addition to current payments, the equivalent to a German annual payment which started last year of up to €3,680, in the most severe category.

"In the event of the Government's offer... not being taken up, the monies would have to revert to the exchequer by the end of the year," she said.

Earlier this year, the State Claims Agency recommended a one-off payment of €50,000 to each survivor, amounting to €1.5m in total, or alternatively a sum of €2m paid into a special purpose trust.

Irish Independent

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