Naturally I welcome the Supreme Court decision made by those eminent judges. I want to establish an administratively straightforward compensation scheme which can deal with cases speedily while being fair both to the taxpayer and to the genuine claimants. The judgment needs to be considered by the Department of Finance, the Attorney General and officials in my own Department before proceeding further, but I look forward to being in a position early in the new year to come back to the House with the terms of a new scheme.
On the question of independence, I take this opportunity to say a special word of thanks to the senior staff in my Department, all of the staff in Coláiste Caoimhín, the soldiers and members of the Medical Corps and staff in the Chief State Solicitor's office for their work, dedication and commitment in recent years in dealing with an unprecedented deluge of claims, unique in the world, in a comprehensive way, checking records, audiograms and preparing for court. I know Deputy Fitzgerald does not intend any slight on their work when she calls for an independent assessment of these cases. Obviously during that time we built up a great deal of expertise, and establishing an independent way of proceeding would also raise the question as to what would happen to those staff when these cases were dealt with in the coming years. There are many considerations but I pay a special tribute to the staff in my Department whose work and commitment have assisted us so far in bringing some degree of sanity and fair play to this issue. That will enable fairly substantial savings to be made while still being fair to claimants.