The Taoiseach has apologised on behalf of the State to people who were sexually abused in day schools before 1992.
Speaking in the Dáil, Leo Varadkar also apologised for the State’s delay in acknowledging that it had a responsiblity to protect the children who were abused.
The apology comes after judge concluded yesterday that the State has misinterpreted a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights and in doing so has denied victims of child sexual abuse access to a redress scheme to which they are entitled.
The decision will have implications for up to 350 survivors of historic sexual abuse that took place in primary schools here.
The Taoiseach said sexual abuse is the most heinous of all crimes, which destroys lives.
Mr Varadkar said procedures should have been in place before 1992 to record and act on allegations of sexual abuse by teachers and staff.
He said it was wrong to make the terms of the ex-gratia scheme so restrictive and he said the state would make payments to the 13 people whose appeals have been successful without delay.
The Taoiseach also said there were other cases where survivors did not appeal or apply and these will have to be re-examined which he said could involve reopening the scheme.
He called on patron bodies to make any information they have available.
He told the Dáil that without meaningful action, apologies do not count for very much.
He said the best apology that the State can make to Louise O’Keeffe and other survivors is to say that further action will be taken.
The Fine Gael leader said the Government had failed them at the time and failed them a second time when it did not own up to its responsibility and he said the State would not fail them a third time.
He said the Minister for Education would make a further statement on this tomorrow afternoon.
He was responding to Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin, who said the ex-gratia redress scheme would have to be reopened because it had been founded on the “wrong premise”.
Mr Martin said the prior complaint condition was a device to ensure no one received compensation under the scheme.
He said the issue has “dragged on” for four years and the people involved had suffered enormous trauma in their lives.
The Cork TD said it was “morally wrong” for the Government to deny some victims access to the redress scheme.
The Taoiseach said he expects the scheme will be reopened and the prior complaint condition would be removed.
He said there would be meetings between the Attorney General and the Department of Education to “chart the way forward.”
Four years ago the Minister for Education introduced a scheme to compensate victims of so called “day school” abuse.
It followed a ruling by the ECHR in the case of Cork woman Louise O’Keeffe, which found that the State bore some responsibility for the abuse she suffered at the hands of her former school principal Leo Hickey, and that the State should compensate her.
However, the State scheme established as a result of the O’Keeffe ruling insisted that applicants must prove that a prior complaint had been received by the authorities about their abuser.
Survivors and lawyers representing them argued that this was a misinterpretation of the European Court ruling, and that it placed an impossible barrier in the way of applicants.
Figures revealed by RTÉ News earlier this year showed that out of 50 applicants to the scheme no applicant has been successful, and that all of the cases refused have been declined on the grounds of a failure to show evidence of a prior complaint.
At the time, Mr Varadkar acknowledged that the compensation scheme was “not working”.
Apologies need action – survivors
Abuse survivor John Boland, who is one of a large number of Limerick men who were abused as small boys at the city’s former Christian Brothers school in Creagh Lane, has said that he and other Creagh Lane survivors will accept the Taoiseach’s apology if it is genuine and sincere and if the Government now “puts their money where their mouth is”.
Speaking to RTÉ News, Mr Boland and other Creagh Lane survivors called on the Government to stop fighting their claims for compensation from the state and to give them redress.
The men were sexually abused by Sean John Drummond, who was a Christian Brother teacher at the school for a brief period in the late 60s.
Sean John Drummond was convicted of child sexual abuse ten years ago. A claim for compensation from the State from John Boland and other victims of Sean Drummond was rejected because the men could not provide evidence that a prior complaint had been made about their abuser to the authorities.
This was a condition that the men could not hope to fulfill because their abuser was a new teacher who had never worked in a school before.
Mr Boland said minister after minister had apologised, but apologies were meaningless unless they were accompanied by action.