Dáil debates

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Thalidomide Victims Compensation

4:15 pm

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Sligo-Leitrim, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Deputy for raising this important issue today. I am glad to have this opportunity, on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Donnelly, to set out the supports currently provided by the Irish Government to Irish thalidomide survivors.

As the Deputy will know, following an Irish Government decision in January 1975, each Irish survivor is provided with health supports, including a medical card issued on an administrative basis regardless of means, in addition to appliances, artificial limbs, equipment, housing adaptations and access to a full range of primary care, hospital and personal social services. Work is under way in the Department of Health to bring forward legislative proposals for the provision of these health and personal social services for Irish survivors of thalidomide on a statutory basis. Unfortunately, it is not possible to provide a specific time frame for these legislative proposals.

Since 1975, the Irish Government has also provided financial assistance to each Irish thalidomide survivor including an ex gratialump sum equivalent to four times the German lump sum and an ex gratiamonthly allowance for life which is equal to the German monthly allowance. There are currently 29 Irish people in receipt of these ex gratiamonthly payments from the Department of Health. The annual figure for the Irish monthly payments ranges from €6,175 to €13,313 for each individual. The rate of payment is related to each survivor's level of thalidomide-related injury. The German monthly payments are made by the Contergan Foundation, which is established under German legislation. All thalidomide survivors entitled to benefits are entitled to a lifelong monthly pension ranging from €8,928 to €100,765 annually. Since 2009, they are also entitled to annual special payments of between €460 and €3,600 and, since 2017, annual specific needs payments of between €5,676 and €14,700. Both the German payments and the Irish ex gratia monthly payments made to survivors are exempt from tax, including deposit interest retention tax, DIRT, and are not assessable as means tor the purpose of Department of Social Protection payments.

In April 2010, the Government decided to provide additional financial assistance and other supports for Irish thalidomide survivors to meet their needs into the future. The measures included an offer of an additional once-off ex gratiaindividual payment of €62,500. This offer was subsequently accepted by a number of the survivors. A senior manager in the Health Service Executive has also been designated to liaise with survivors with a view to meeting their ongoing health and personal social service needs. This support continues.

It is important to note that the German Contergan Foundation has confirmed that, since 2013, it is accepting applications from individuals for compensation for thalidomide-related injury. It is open to any Irish person to apply to the foundation for assessment of his or her disability as being attributable to thalidomide. Any Irish person who establishes that his or her injury is attributable to thalidomide will be offered appropriate supports by the Irish Government commensurate with those currently provided to Irish thalidomide survivors. I also assure the House of the Government's commitment to the ongoing support of Irish thalidomide survivors. The Deputy asked that the Minister, Deputy Donnelly, meet with the thalidomide survivors. I will raise this within the Department. If the Deputy would like to send in an email, I will follow up with the Department.


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