I propose to take Questions Nos. 394 to 399, inclusive, together.
In response to the Deputy's queries on the operation of the ex-gratia scheme, I should point out that the ex-gratia scheme operates in particular circumstances. In July 2015, the Government agreed that it would respond to those who instituted legal proceedings in relation to school child sexual abuse but had discontinued their cases by offering ex gratia payments. It was decided that such payments would be offered to those persons whose cases were not statute barred prior to their proceedings being discontinued and where the person can demonstrate that their circumstances involved sexual abuse of a school child by a primary or post-primary school employee in respect of whom there was a prior complaint of sexual abuse to a school authority (including an authority of a school in which the employee had previously worked) prior to the issue of the Department of Education guidelines to primary and post-primary schools in 1991 and 1992 respectively. As these cases had been discontinued by the Plaintiffs, the proceedings were no longer before the domestic courts and therefore there was no litigation in existence which could be settled.
In the four years of operation of the scheme, 50 applications were received. At the time of the Assessor’s making his Decision, 44 applications had been declined. In respect of the declined applications, the applicants were advised that they could apply for an independent assessment of their application.
No payments have been made under the Scheme to date. However, 19 applications have been assessed by the Independent Assessor who recently determined that, of those 19 applications, 13 should receive a payment under the ex gratia scheme. The Assessor set this out as part of a larger decision in relation to the prior complaint criterion within the scheme.
The payments in these 13 cases will be expedited. A small number of applications which are on hands and which remain to be processed under the Scheme will also be dealt with expeditiously.
Arising from the Decision of the Assessor, the scheme is now being reviewed. This process will take a number of weeks to complete.
Any applications received after the date of the Assessor’s decision will await the outcome of the review.