I want to raise a legacy issue which affects all parties that have been in government over the past several years. I am not doing this in any political point scoring manner and I accept previous Governments were equally culpable in this regard. It is about the legacy issue of how the State dealt with child sex abuse in national day schools. The State fought against any idea of culpability for that until Louise O'Keeffe won a major breakthrough case in the European Court of Human Rights in 2014. The Taoiseach will be familiar with that case.
The State's response to that European Court of Human Rights judgment has been a significant failure, leaving much to be desired, however. The State introduced an ex gratia payment scheme but, in many respects, the limits were too low. The prior complaint expedient that was inserted effectively debarred many from seeking justice. Only seven settlements so far have been reached out of 210 cases, with the remainder still going through the courts.
Recently, I met a victim who has been involved in this situation for some time. He was the victim of horrific abuse at the hands of a Christian Brother in a school. The abuser was subsequently convicted in this and other abuse cases. There are a number of other victims out there at the moment. The man in question has been up and down through the courts and the religious orders but has received no compensation or a cent from the State.
Many of the people in question discontinued their cases when the Supreme Court ruled the State did not have an obligation. Recently, the High Court stated it will not uphold their rights to pursue their cases again in law. In his ruling, Mr. Justice Max Barrett said, "[But] the Irish people, with their great and proper sense of justice, may well conclude that the path of rightness in this matter should lead ultimately to a different end". He added, "As an Irishman, I would respectfully agree".
Essentially what has gone on is unacceptable. After the Ryan report, the Taoiseach then said the response of the State should "draw together all the generosity, sensitivity and compassion that should have been shown to survivors when they were children". He went on to say Ireland should become a world leader in reconciliation and reparation. According to the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Richard Bruton, in a parliamentary reply, there are 210 cases. By any objective standard, that is a finite number. Either through the criminal injuries tribunal or some other method, I implore the Taoiseach - I am willing to be open and responsive - to get a mechanism to ensure the victim I met, as well as others, will be properly and duly responded to by the State.