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State and abuse survivors settle redress case
Noeline Blackwell (Pic: Cian Redmond)

14 Jun 2024 / human rights Print

State and abuse survivors settle redress case

A settlement has been reached in a High Court case involving a challenge by survivors of historical abuse in schools to the State’s redress system.

KW v the Minister for Education, the Government of Ireland, Ireland and the Attorney General, had been a lead case, with nine others dealing the same issue pending before the High Court.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), which was involved in the case as amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’), said that the State had made “a significant concession” in an ongoing campaign by survivors of historical abuse in schools to access redress.

Ex gratia payments

The issue in dispute was the State’s refusal to admit survivors of historical abuse in schools to its Revised Ex Gratia Redress Scheme, which was rolled out on 21 July 2021 and ran for two years.

The settlement terms were not disclosed in court, but an IHREC statement said that it welcomed the State’s agreement to now provide KW and nine others with an ex gratia payment of €84,000 each.

The human-rights body added, however, that it remained “deeply concerned” that many other survivors of historic child abuse in primary and post-primary schools, dating from before 1991 and 1992, had not had access to redress.

It argues that “unfair and discriminatory barriers” were put in place as part of the State’s initial scheme in 2015 and the revised scheme in 2021, which closed in July 2023.

‘Effective remedy’

IHREC has called on the Government to immediately establish a new redress scheme, to provide “an effective remedy” to survivors of historic child abuse in primary and post-primary schools before 1991 and 1992.

“It is important that any new scheme does not repeat the mistakes of the previous schemes by imposing arbitrary and discriminatory pre-conditions,” it stated.

IHREC commissioner Noeline Blackwell described the developments in the High Court as “an important breakthrough”.

“Survivors of historic child sexual abuse in schools in Ireland face significant and long-standing barriers in accessing redress, despite Louise O’Keeffe’s ground-breaking judgment in Strasbourg over a decade ago.

“These are people in Ireland who experienced sexual abuse over 30 years ago in schools as children and have never had access to justice,” Blackwell said.

IHREC says that it will now seek to discuss the implications of the settlements with the Government and the Department of Education.

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