The conclusions of the report of Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill into the Government's ex gratia redress scheme that was introduced in 2015 and maintained since then represent a damning indictment of the Government's approach to the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the Louise O'Keeffe case. I pay tribute to people like John Allen, a victim of child sexual abuse who has been denied any redress from the State to date. I also pay tribute to John Boland, Thomas Hogan, Christopher Rainbow and their colleagues from Limerick, who worked with Deputy O'Dea. For more than four years they have fought the Government's obstinate position of the invocation of a prior complaint mechanism to deny them any access to the redress scheme.
The decision of Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill also vindicates the vital and professional work of Dr. Conor O'Mahony and the Child Law Clinic in University College Cork who has advocated on behalf of the victims for so long and exposed the illogicality and cruelty of the Government's position in the past four years. Much of the argument put forward by Dr. O'Mahony has essentially been upheld by the judge in his assessment. The prior complaint was, in my opinion, a device to ensure no one would receive compensation under the scheme and so it proved. As the judge said, having any such mechanism would have involved, as a starting point, the making of a complaint by or on behalf of an abused child. It was obvious from day one that this was illogical. The judge has said that for the State to insist on such a precondition to eligibility involved an "inherent inversion of logic and a fundamental unfairness to applicants."
The Government was warned about all of this. I raised the matter with the former Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, during Leaders' Questions and the Taoiseach. I met the former Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Bruton, and his officials, who stonewalled on every occasion. We tabled a Private Members' motion last year which was passed by the House. As Dr. O'Mahony said, the Government set up a compensation scheme, but it did not want to pay any compensation. It has dragged on for four years and the people involved have suffered enormous trauma and abuse in their lives. I have met them. It has been appalling. The deliberate distortion of the O'Keeffe judgment has exacerbated that hurt and abuse for the victims who have been denied access to the redress scheme. It was morally wrong of the Government and its predecessor to pursue this line, particularly when it was pointed out so cogently to them by Dr. O'Mahony, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, IHREC, and the Ombudsman for Children. Why was the Government so deaf to the obvious and the logical? Why was the O'Keeffe judgment so blatantly distorted? Why did the Government go along with it, compounding the hurt already endured by the victims? Will it apologise to them for its actions? Does it accept in full the independent assessor's conclusions? Will the Taoiseach indicate to the Dáil what the Government intends to do in respect of pending and discontinued cases and whether they will be accommodated as they should be under the redress scheme?