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Pathway to Redress for Victims of Convicted Child Sexual Abusers: Motion [Private Members] (Continued)

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 971 No. 2

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Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton It is to be paid to certain victims, not on the basis of the State's responsibilities for failings that led to the abuse that they suffered, but based on the fact that there was a conviction of the perpetrator in their cases. Although I looked at this and took advice on it, the position is that this would treat different victims differently purely on the basis of whether a conviction could successfully be secured.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea No, that is a deliberate distortion.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton There are many reasons a victim's abuser might not be successfully prosecuted. The victim might have been too traumatised to pursue the case. The evidence might not be sufficiently strong for the DPP to prosecute. It may not have been possible to secure a conviction beyond reasonable doubt in the courts. There are many reasons a person who was a perpetrator might not be convicted. For the State to set up a scheme that would seek to treat some victims in one way and treat other victims, perhaps as traumatised or even more traumatised, differently would not be fair.

Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy That is the position currently.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I have been advised that it would breach the equality provisions of the Constitution in that it would seek to treat one group differently from people who are in similar circumstances.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea Can we see that advice?

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton If the State has a liability because of its failing, that has to be established and applied equally. It cannot be applied through using a conviction in a criminal court as establishing that the State had a liability. Convictions occur and the State is not by that proven to have been responsible.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea It is not establishing liability, it is establishing that the thing happened.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The payment of compensation is linked to the State being responsible.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Rubbish.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton That is what happened in the redress institutions. The State was responsible. It put many of the children in these institutions, oversaw and regulated those institutions and was responsible for safety in them.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin We regulate primary schools.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The State solely inspects in primary schools in respect of the execution of the curriculum.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne That is not what the European Court of Human Rights said.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I have also taken advice and it is very clear from the legal advice available to me that any attempt to create a scheme such as this would be open to challenge by others who are not included within the ring fence of conviction and that such a case would be successful because it would be treating one group of victims differently from another group and that would not be acceptable and would not be in coincidence with the principles of equality in our Constitution.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea Can we have a copy of that advice?

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The core issue the Deputy raises, namely, what the court established and whether the ex gratia scheme is properly applying that, is being evaluated by an independent High Court judge who is respected by everyone. It is not being evaluated by me, as Minister, or our legal advisers. It is being assessed independently by a judge and we should await his findings.

Deputy Maurice Quinlivan: Information on Maurice Quinlivan Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan I am sharing time with Deputy Funchion. I have been a Deputy for two years and the Minister's amendment to the motion was the most shocking thing I have seen in this House. Tomorrow, we will vote on the motion before the House and the Minister knows the Government will lose that vote. Given that he knows his amendment will be lost, I am perplexed as to why he proposed it. The motion has the support of all parties in the House. The Government will be isolated tomorrow when we vote against its amendment and support the original motion.

  This is an issue I have been deeply involved with since before I was elected to the House. When I was a councillor I met some of the lads who attended Creagh Lane national school in Limerick. I welcome the lads who are in the Gallery. I particularly welcome John Allen from Cork, and echo the comments made by Deputy Micheál Martin. Mr. Allen is a fine person. I have dealt with him a number of times and his commitment to seeking justice not only for himself but also for others is to be commended. The other lads from Creagh Lane who are in the Gallery are John Boland, Christy Rainbow, David Phayer, Ger Naughton, Buddy Boland, Georgie Kennedy, Tom Hogan, William Buckley and Ger Smyth. I also mention those who had intended travelling today but could not make it in the end. I specifically want to remember those who have not survived and are not here tonight.

  I and my party have worked in a co-operative way on this topic. Sinn Féin suggested what could be included in the motion, refrained from putting forward our own motion and did not table any amendments to ensure the motion passes, which I have no doubt will be the case given the widespread support for it among all parties, apart from the Minister's party. With the support of Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil, the Labour Party and others, the motion will pass and I expect the Minister to take action on it immediately. The will of the Dáil should not be ignored by this Government whose actions to date on this issue have been despicable. I expect Fianna Fáil to use the leverage it has under the confidence and supply agreement to ensure action is taken once the motion is passed.

  I will speak briefly to the specifics of the motion. It notes the Louise O'Keeffe judgment and the narrow interpretation the Government has made of it. I asked the Minister in parliamentary questions who exactly provided the advice that a prior complaint was required. Unfortunately, he failed to provide the requested information on that occasion. Perhaps he can shed some light on the matter tonight. I also asked previously about the total absence of consultation talks. Maybe the Minister can update us on their progress. I asked why the Minister is refusing to provide information to the State Claims Agency relating to ex gratia scheme applications despite the agency having requested it in November 2016 and having sent numerous reminders to the Department. Will the Minister update the House on that? I have asked countless parliamentary questions seeking information on this topic and most of the time the answers received provide no information. I can only assume this stonewalling is because the Government knows it is wrong, but just does not want to deal with the issue. That is simply not good enough.

  Creagh Lane was a small national school in the heart of Limerick city. It should have been a place - an education facility - in which children were nurtured, supported and encouraged to reach their full potential. Unfortunately, for many this was not the case. It was a horror story and a true nightmare for many of them. These children were failed by a State that should and could have protected them. It is disgraceful that the men from Creagh Lane have had to put up such a fight. Having been subjected to the most horrendous sexual abuse as children, they were denied redress due to barriers put in place by Fine Gael. Some of these lads were recently quoted in thejournal.ie. Christy Rainbow, who was abused at the age of eight, said: "School was about survival, I'd be looking at the teacher thinking 'just stay away'." Thomas Hogan, who was abused at the age of six, recalled screaming and having to be tied into a buggy with a rope to be brought to school. He said: "The children never spoke about it, we just kept our heads down and our mouths shut." John Allen from Cork said: "I shut down. All I know is I was crying for my mother."

  I know most of these lads personally. I went to a similar type of school not far from Creagh Lane a few years later. Many of them had not spoken about their abuse for years. Families and friends were unaware of what happened to them and what they went through. Some did not speak about what happened to them until after the case against their abuser was concluded in 2009. I remember one survivor telling me, when I met him in the Dáil just after the conviction of the ex-Christian Brother, that his mother asked him if the reason he looked back every day when he was leaving for school was that he wanted her to take him back.

  The Government's handling of this matter has been shambolic and shameful. It is clear it does not understand the hurt and stress it is continuing to cause to survivors. It has forced them to protest outside the Dáil gates to try to get their story highlighted in the media and to travel to Europe to highlight the injustice done to them in the European Parliament. Their testimonies on that trip were powerful and will remain with me for the rest of my life. The Government's failure to give these men the justice they require has meant they have had to retell their heart-wrenching stories again and again, thereby reliving their awful experience, and has forced them to plead for the redress to which they should be fully entitled. This is a scandal.

  In his reply to Deputies Willie O'Dea and Micheál Martin, the Minister tried to muddy the waters by talking about floodgates opening or other victims being left behind. That is not intention of the motion, as the Minister well knows.


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