08 July, 2019 - Determination of the Independent Assessor to the Ex Gratia Scheme instituted on foot of the Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in respect of O’Keeffe v Ireland

The Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh T.D. has received the decision of the Independent Assessor, Judge Iarfhlaith O’Neill, on his assessment of applications that had previously been declined under the State’s Ex Gratia Scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse in day schools. 

The Ex Gratia Scheme was instituted in July 2015 following the judgment by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in respect of the case taken by Ms Louise O’Keeffe against the State. 

The Government agreed that it would respond to those who instituted legal proceedings in relation to day school child sexual abuse and who had discontinued those proceedings in the wake of judgments of the High and Supreme Courts, but before the subsequent ECtHR judgment in the Louise O’Keeffe case. 

The Ex Gratia Scheme was put in place to facilitate this. 

Minister McHugh has received a letter from Independent Assessor O’Neill and a copy of the decision he has made in respect of applications which were submitted to him, having originally been declined by the State Claims Agency under the Ex Gratia Scheme. 

Minister McHugh said he wanted to express abhorrence of sexual abuse and sympathy for those who have suffered. He also acknowledged the trauma that is faced by survivors of child sexual abuse. 

The Minister said he hoped that the decision of the Independent Assessor may help to bring a measure of closure to some of the survivors. 

A total of 19 applications to the Ex Gratia Scheme were assessed by Judge O’Neill. 

The Assessor has today written to all 19 applicants and their legal representatives to inform them of his decisions in respect of the assessment of their applications. 

He has decided that 13 applicants whose application for a payment from the Ex-Gratia scheme was refused by the SCA on the sole ground that they failed to furnish evidence of a “Prior Complaint” are each entitled to a payment from the scheme. 

The Assessor has also decided that six applicants whose applications were refused on the latter ground but also on the additional ground that they do not fulfil the eligibility criterion in the Ex-Gratia Scheme in relation to discontinued litigation, are not entitled to a payment from the scheme. 

On foot of the decision of the Assessor, payments will be made by the State Claims Agency (SCA) to the applicants in respect of whom the Assessor has made a positive decision in respect of payment from the scheme. 

The SCA has been asked to make this an immediate priority. 

Ends 

Notes for Editors 

:: The terms of the Ex Gratia Scheme are that payments of up to €84,000[1] may 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. 

:: The Ex Gratia Scheme is administered by the State Claims Agency (SCA). 

:: Where the SCA declined an application, applicants could seek an assessment from the Independent Assessor.  

:: Fifty applications have been received under the Ex Gratia Scheme; five remain under consideration and the remainder have been declined. 

:: Since 2005, the State has paid compensation in 22 settlements which have been reached outside of the Ex Gratia Scheme. Compensation amounting to in excess of €1 million has been paid by the State. Many of these settlements also involve compensation from school authorities, with some €2.3 million in total being paid to victims of abuse in respect of these settlements.  

The Independent Assessor’s report can be found at the following link :

https://www.education.ie/en/Learners/Information/Former-Residents-of-Industrial-Schools/ECHR-OKeeffe-v-Ireland/independent-assessment-process/okeeffe-v-ireland-decision-of-the-independent-assessor.pdf

[1] A contribution to the applicant’s legal expenses may also be offered.