“Creagh Lane men” continue campaign to be included in Irish Redress Scheme for survivors of abuse in national schools

Earlier this month a well know group, the “Creagh Lane men” who were sexually abused as children in Creagh Lane National School in Limerick again protested outside the Department of Education and also at Leinster House.

The men were abused by their teacher in the 1960s at Creagh Lane National School in Limerick.

Their teacher, Sean Drummond admitted to indecently assaulting 19 pupils and pleaded guilty to 36 charges in 2009 and he was sentenced to two years in prison.

The Creagh Lane men have been campaigning for compensation/redress from the State for over 10 years. The men say that the campaign is not limited to seeking compensation/redress as things stand they have not been able to access other support services that have been put in place for the survivors of residential abuse including counselling and other psychological and psychiatric services.

As those abused at Creagh Lane National School were day pupils they were not entitled to apply for redress under the statutory redress scheme established by the Residential Institutions Redress Act, 2002 where applicants for redress had to have been resident in an institution included in the statutory scheme.

While National Schools in Ireland are state funded, they are owned and managed by the religious, the majority being owned and managed by the Roman Catholic Church.

This being the case these claims were previously defended by the Irish State on the basis that they could not be held legally responsible for what happened in schools that they neither owned nor managed.

This remained the case until Ms Louise O’Keeffe (who was a day pupil and was sexually assaulted at her National School) brought her case to the European Court of Human Rights. In its judgment which was handed down in 2014 the Court declared that the state failed in its duty to protect her from the sexual abuse she had suffered as a child at her National School.

Following on from the O’Keeffe judgment, the Irish Government launched an Ex Gratia Compensation/Redress Scheme for survivors and victims who had been in a similar position to Ms. O’Keefe but who had already dropped legal challenges.

However, in order to access this scheme the applicant had to show that there had been a “…prior complaint of sexual abuse” to the School authorities. This interpretation of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights meant that many survivors and victims were unable to access the Ex Gratia Compensation/Redress Scheme which led to further criticism of the Irish Government.

This criticism led to a review of the applications that had been rejected by the scheme on foot of the prior complaint of sexual abuse rule by Mr Justice O’Neill, a retired High Court Judge, who declared that he rule was “incompatible” with the O’Keeffe judgment.

Following the outcome of the O’Neill Review, the then Minister for Education established a second review and the outcome of that review is awaited.

With the recent change in Government the Creagh Lane men are calling on the current Taoiseach, Mr Michael Martin to take direct responsibility for ensuring that their claims are accepted by the scheme and that they are offered compensation now.

It is unlikely that any final decision will be taken by the Irish Government until such times as the outcome of the second review is known.


james.chambers@blmlaw.com

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