Seven school abuse survivors drop cases after letters from state agency

Sinn Féin education spokesperson criticises 'cowardly' practice of writing to sex abuse victims

Seven school abuse survivors drop cases after letters from state agency

Department of Education headquarters in Dublin | File photo: William Murphy/Flickr

Seven victims of school sex abuse have withdrawn legal cases after receiving letters from a stage agency.

Litigations against the state were dropped after people who were abused as schoolchildren were advised that they could avoid legal costs if they took no further action.

The Department of Education came under criticism earlier this year after it emerged that its lawyers had sent letters implying victims could be pursued for large sums of money should they lose.

Minister Richard Bruton defended the decision at the time, telling RTÉ that the state was offering people an opportunity to bring matters to a close.

Over a billion has been paid out to abuse survivors under a state redress scheme and ex-gratia payments have been provided in other cases, he said in July.

New figures released by the department to Sinn Féin TD Carol Nolan show letters were issued by the State Claims Agency (SCA) to solicitor firms representing 107 cases.    

Seven claims have been "discontinued" to date, Minister Bruton told the Offaly deputy in response to a parliamentary question.

In a statement, Deputy Nolan described the practice of writing to victims as "truly distressing".

"The cowardly actions in writing to these victims during the Dáil recess when the issue may not be highlighted, shows up this government for what they are," she said.

"While the letters may have had the desired result in this small number of cases, there remains a hundred victims determined to pursue justice. I applaud their courage."

Deputy Nolan also urged the government to fully accept the European Court of Human Rights judgment that the state was liable for the abuse of Cork woman Louise O'Keeffe by her teacher.

"I am calling on the government to implement the O'Keeffe ruling in full and grant these victims the justice they deserve," she said.