Dáil debates

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Child Abuse

10:15 pm

Photo of Maurice QuinlivanMaurice Quinlivan (Limerick City, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I want to express my disappointment that the Minister, Deputy Foley, is not present. I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Madigan, for dealing with the matter.

I have raised the issue of redress for victims of historical abuse in Irish national schools numerous times in my five years as a Deputy. I have spoken specifically in regard to survivors of sexual abuse at Creagh Lane national school in Limerick. I am deeply frustrated by the glacial pace of progress on this issue so we can imagine the frustration of the survivors. To quote Professor Conor O’Mahony, the Government special rapporteur on child protection, he recently stated that we are quick to criticise other countries who ignore international law but our Government has openly flouted a decision of the European Court of Human Rights on its liability for sexual abuse for seven and a half years and counting.

It is disgraceful how long these men have been waiting for answers. In 2009, their abuser was convicted but they were excluded from any redress. In 2014, Louise O'Keeffe won her case in Europe. The fact that she had to bring her own State to the courts of Europe is a shame on all of us. The men from Creagh Lane travelled to Brussels in 2017 with the then MEP, Liadh Ní Riada, and myself, and they highlighted their case at the European Parliament to a number of MEPs. In 2018, the Government of the day had to be defeated in a Dáil motion from Fianna Fáil to ensure that the obnoxious prior complaint requirement was waived. The then Taoiseach, Deputy Leo Varadkar, apologised to victims in July 2019. That same summer, the Minister, Deputy McHugh, stated he was happy to meet with the survivors of Creagh Lane and he said that it is what we do next that counts. What we did next was to erect new barriers to redress and no meeting has taken place.

To move on to the Thirty-third Dáil, in July 2020, I raised the issue directly with the Taoiseach, who said he would meet with the Department of Education that week with the intention of providing me with a timeline for the roll-out of a new redress scheme. In September of the same year, the Taoiseach told my party leader that we were still awaiting the outcome of the review. We are still waiting. Since then, I twice raised the issue with the Tánaiste in December 2019 and in March of this year. My party raised the issue and I subsequently wrote to the Taoiseach in March 2021 but, to date, I have not received a reply.

They are no longer young men. Their childhood and youth was stolen from them by their abuser. Those who were abused did not just suffer in childhood and this violent intrusion affected many throughout their lives. For some, there were family breakdowns and they were robbed of an education. They carry the ramifications of this evil with them every single day. They were children and now they are ageing men. Some, unfortunately, are not with us anymore as they have passed away. They do not have time to wait for an outcome. They should not have to wait this long for a decision on redress. This is about a sense of closure to the trauma they have lived with for their entire adult lives. These men feel utterly abandoned by the State. Is it any wonder when we consider how callously the State has treated them?

In 2015, an ex gratiapayment was offered but claimants were required to prove a prior complaint of sexual abuse had been made. This was impossible. Thankfully, in 2019, Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill reviewed this and deemed it to be a wrong interpretation which closed off redress to many sexual abuse survivors. In the Dáil in 2019, the then Taoiseach, Deputy Leo Varadkar, made an apology to the survivors on behalf of the State. It was important and long overdue. The apology was appreciated by the survivors and suggested to them that action would follow. I stated as much in my remarks to the House that this action and work was needed. It is now June 2021, 23 months later, and there has been no progress at all on including these men in the redress scheme.

There should not have been a need for review for the former pupils of Creagh Lane. Their abuse was proven in court and the onus of prior complaint has been rightly removed, yet these men had to fight for every inch they have travelled on this journey towards justice. They have been outside the gates of Leinster House protesting, they have had to talk about these painful incidents with the media and they have travelled to Brussels to highlight their mistreatment. The State made Louise O'Keeffe jump through the courts system before she was provided with justice. Is the Department playing a new game? To take almost two years to complete a review suggests it is. I ask the Minister to use the weight of her position to fast-track this review or to intercede directly to ensure redress is provided to the former pupils of Creagh Lane.


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