Order of Business 26/1/16

The Minister for Health has dismissed a report which rates emergency care waiting times in Ireland as the worst in Europe. Ireland ranks alongside Macedonia, Croatia and Slovenia in the provision of emergency services. However, as Senator John Crown pointed out last week, when one is closing an entire surgery department to accommodate and cater for patients in the emergency department, one knows one has a crisis.  The Minister does not appear to be aware there is a crisis, although he is very good at commentating all of the time, as if he was not the Minister for Health.

26 1 2016 order of business seanad

Last week I raised the issue of the victims of child abuse and the fact the Minister has been attacked because she is trying to minimise the State’s liability for the payment of compensation to the victims of abuse. The Irish Timeshas stated that the State has gone to the courts to seek protection to minimise its liability because it is being sued by the victims of child sexual abuse. In that High Court case, the State is trying to minimise its liability and to seek protection from being sued, along with the Christian Brothers. We all know about the Louise O’Keeffe case and the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights. To date, on the basis of that ruling, 350 cases for compensation are pending and only six cases have been settled by the State.

Unfortunately, in this job, we come across some horrific cases of people who have been the victims of child sexual abuse. We also hear about some of the victims who have gone to the courts and secured criminal convictions. When those victims have sought compensation from the religious orders, including the Christian Brothers, they have been pursued and blocked at every turn by the religious orders. That has happened despite the fact the victims have secured a conviction against the Christian Brothers in the criminal courts. Victims of abuse have asked me where the State was when they needed protection. The orders are now seeking protection through the courts to minimise their liability. Worse than all of that, when one asks those in the Christian Brothers why it is going to court to try to minimise its liability, even though a member of the organisation has been found guilty in a criminal court, the answer one receives is that it wants the courts to decide the level of compensation. When a member of the Christian Brothers told me that, I asked, “Is that what Jesus would say to you?” If Jesus were here now, would he say that we should go to the courts?

A case in Florida, which was reported in the newspapers, was of a priest from Donegal who, in 2015, reported an allegation against a paedophile priest who was subsequently convicted. The priest who made the allegation was victimised by the church. He was locked out of his house and put on leave of absence by his bishop. The priest reported these matters to the Vatican but he has not received a satisfactory reply.

Despite all of the assurances given by the Taoiseach in the other House and his fine words about protecting and looking after the victims of child abuse in this country, we can see that the State is still seeking protection not for the victims but from the victims. We can also see that the church, as recently as last year, victimised the priests who were brave enough to report people who perpetrated child abuse. The priests who reported the abuse suffered consequences because of their brave actions. Will the Leader amend the Order of Business so that the Minister can come to the House and we can know why, despite all of the fine words about protecting the victims of child abuse, the State is going to the courts to seek protection from paying compensation to the victims of child abuse?

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