I move amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:
- sexual abuse, and child sexual abuse in particular, is a heinous crime wherever and however it occurs;
- everything that can be done should be done to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice and to ensure that those responsible for such crimes provide redress to the victims;
- in respect of residential institutions, the State accepted that it shared responsibility for abuse along with those who staffed and managed the institutions since, as set out in the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (Ryan Report), the State was responsible for committing children to the institutions, for licensing their operation and for directly inspecting the institutions with respect to the care and protection of children within them;
- under the now-closed Residential Institutions Redress Scheme, over €1.24 billion was paid to some 15,000 survivors of abuse, the bulk of this coming from taxpayers’ funds;
- in respect of day schools, the 2014 European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) judgment found that the State failed in its obligation, in specific circumstances, to protect Louise O’Keeffe from sexual abuse by a teacher; and
- the State in 2015, introduced an ex gratia scheme of payments for victims of abuse by teachers and other school employees;
recognises that the requirement for evidence of a prior complaint of abuse (arising from the ECtHR judgement) is needed to access the ex gratia scheme in those cases where the State should reasonably have known of the danger posed by the abuser and taken steps to address it;
further notes the appointment of an independent assessor to hear the appeals under this scheme and that he is reviewing the legal implications of the ECtHR judgment, and awaits the outcome of the independent assessor’s considerations;
- the ex gratia scheme should be open to all those to whom the criteria apply, only some of whom may have been abused by the criminally convicted; and
- all the services of the State should be applied to support victims of crime; and
calls on all persons and institutions who have evidence of complaints in respect of sex abusers to freely provide that evidence so that the victims of abuse may secure redress, whether through the ex gratia scheme or through civil proceedings against those abusers and/or their employers, as relevant.
I thank the sponsors of the motion for putting it before the House. No one can doubt that child sexual abuse is one of the most appalling crimes that can be perpetrated because it is inflicted on people in their most vulnerable years and is done by persons in positions of trust. Like all Members of the House, I believe we can spare no effort to stamp out that practice, to protect children from such perpetrators and to bring such offenders to justice.
We must also support the victims, in their needs as victims of crime, in accessing health and welfare services to overcome the huge difficulties they have encountered in their lives that Deputy Martin and Deputy O'Dea described. I believe we should be generous in affording them access to those State services that can assist them in dealing with what has been a very traumatic experience.
We must also spare no effort in ensuring that the child protection measures we put in place are rigorously enforced. Much work has been done since the European Court of Human Rights judgment to ensure we have a robust scheme.
The motion raises the question of liability to compensation. There is no doubt there is a clear liability on the part of perpetrators and those who oversaw them. When it comes to the issue of the State, we can see what has happened. In the case of industrial schools, the State failed. It clearly had a responsibility for the management of those schools. The State sent children to those schools. The State licensed those schools. The State inspected those schools to ensure the welfare of those children, and the State failed catastrophically in its execution of its clear and direct responsibilities. The Ryan report shows that litany of failings.
When Deputy Micheál Martin was in government, the State rightly introduced redress in the case of industrial schools. Under that redress scheme, the State has paid compensation to 15,000 victims. A sum of €1.5 billion has been paid out in respect of those claims.
At the time the Government of which Deputy Micheál Martin was a member put in place this scheme, the case around the State's liability in respect of primary schools was regarded differently by the State and has been since that time. The State did not enrol the children in those schools. They were not State institutions. The State did not employ the staff in those schools and the State did not manage the schools. That was the clear position of the State when the current Opposition was in government as it is now.
That was tested in the Louise O'Keeffe case. Louise O'Keeffe went to the European Court of Human Rights which found that in the case of Louise O'Keeffe, where there was a prior complaint but the perpetrator was not pursued in any way by the State, that established a clear failure by the State. That, in turn, meant the State had a responsibility and a liability even in the case of primary schools it did not manage, as I mentioned. That is what led to the ex gratia scheme that was put in place.
I recognise that many applications to that scheme have disputed the State's interpretation of the ruling that underpins it and how they, as applicants seeking to establish prior complaint, have been facilitated in that. It was in the light of understanding those concerns that I appointed an independent assessor to examine the appeals against that ex gratia scheme. There is no desire on the part of the State not to pay out in a case where the circumstances are similar to those found in the judgment in the Louise O'Keeffe case. That is the reason I have appointed an independent former High Court, Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill, to assess the cases before him. That is not being done by me, as a Minister, legal advisers to the Government or the Attorney General. It is being done by an independent former member of the High Court to assess the issues, whether the ruling the State used to underpin the ex gratia scheme is properly rooted in the judgment and the process applicants have gone through to try to establish prior complaint. I believe we should await the findings of Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill in respect of the cases put before him. That process is designed to explore the arguments Deputy Micheál Martin made, and Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill will deal with that.
While both Deputies spoke eloquently about the very large number of victims and described how all of them have suffered grievously, in the motion they seek to open up a situation where the State would introduce a scheme purely for those who were victims of convicted perpetrators. I understand the argument they put forward here and to the Taoiseach, with whom I have discussed the matter. Essentially, the motion states that compensation should be paid to certain victims but not to others.