Written answers

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Department of Health

Legislative Programme

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Social Democrats)
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324. To ask the Minister for Health the status of the support for Irish survivors of thalidomide Bill; if he will meet with a representative organisation (details supplied) regarding this Bill; the reason he previously refused a request to meet with this organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56697/21]

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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There are a number of cases concerning thalidomide before the High Court at present and it is not possible to comment on matters that are sub judice. As certain members of the representative organisation and I are on opposing sides of the extant litigation, it is not appropriate for me to meet with the representatives, in these circumstances.

The Deputy may be aware that following an Irish Government decision in January 1975, the Government granted an ex-gratia sum equivalent to 4 times the German lump-sum and an ex-gratia monthly allowance for life equal to the German monthly allowance, to each of the Irish children found to have thalidomide related injuries. There are currently 29 Irish people in receipt of ex-gratia monthly 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. From 1 August 2013, the Foundation substantially increased its monthly payments to thalidomide survivors, including Irish survivors. Both the German payments and the Irish ex-gratia payments made to the survivors are exempt from tax, including DIRT and are not reckonable as means for the purpose of Social Welfare payments. The rate of payment is related to the survivors' level of thalidomide related injury.

In addition to the initial lump-sum and monthly payments for life, the supports provided by the Irish State to each Irish survivor include a medical card on an administrative basis regardless of means, provision of appliances, artificial limbs, equipment, housing adaptations and access to a full range of primary care, hospital and personal social services. There is a designated senior manager in the Health Service Executive who liaises with Irish thalidomide survivors and assists them to access supports towards their ongoing health and personal social service needs.

Work is underway in the Department to bring forward Heads of a Bill to provide these health and personal social supports on a statutory basis to Irish thalidomide survivors. While it is not possible at this stage to provide a timeframe for these legislative proposals, the Government is committed to the ongoing support of Irish thalidomide survivors.

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 their disability as being attributable to thalidomide. Any Irish person who establishes that their injury is attributable to thalidomide will be offered appropriate supports by the Irish Government, commensurate with those currently provided to Irish thalidomide survivors.


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