State settles High Court actions over exclusion from historic abuse redress scheme

State settles High Court actions over exclusion from historic abuse redress scheme

Noeline Blackwell

The State has made a significant concession in the ongoing campaign by survivors of historical abuse in schools to access redress by settling 10 High Court actions challenging the State’s refusal to admit them to its most recent redress scheme.

In April, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission was granted leave to exercise its amicus curiae function in the case of KW v the Minister for Education, the Government of Ireland, Ireland and the Attorney General. This case will not now go ahead as the matter has been settled.

KW was a lead case, with nine other cases dealing with the same issue pending before the High Court. The issue in dispute was the State’s refusal to admit survivors of historical abuse in schools to the revised ex gratia redress scheme which ran from July 2021 until July 2023.

The State has agreed to provide KW and nine others with the ex gratia payment of €84,000 each following a lengthy legal battle.

However, the Commission said it remains deeply concerned that other survivors of historic child abuse in primary and post primary schools, dating from before 1991 and 1992, have not had access to redress due to the “unfair and discriminatory barriers” in the 2015 and 2021 schemes.

The Commission called 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 has stressed that any new scheme must not repeat the mistakes of the previous schemes by imposing arbitrary and discriminatory pre-conditions.

The Commission believes that the concessions made today by the State, in settling KW and the other nine cases, could have broader implications for survivors of historic sexual abuse in schools who currently have no access to redress.

It said it will seek to follow up with government and the Department of Education to discuss the implications of these settlements.

IHREC commissioner Noeline Blackwell said: “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.

“Today’s developments in the High Court are an important breakthrough. These settlements today are a significant concession by the State. Yet, more needs to be done.

“We are again calling on the Government to introduce a comprehensive, fair and non-discriminatory redress scheme that respects the European court’s ruling in Louise O’Keeffe’s case, which does not include unreasonable or arbitrary barriers in accessing redress, and ultimately, that ensure survivors access the justice due to them by the State.”

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