The Shame of Ireland
By Bernard Purcell
Ireland’s Court of Appeal last week potentially cleared the way for thousands of people in this country who attended the country’s notorious industrial schools but missed the deadline for compensation from the Residential Institutions Redress Board.Mr Justice Gerard Hogan
Mr Justice Gerard Hogan, on behalf of the three-judge Appeal Court, quashed a High Court decision agreeing with the Redress Board that a 58-year old man had applied too late under the compensation scheme. His claim can now be reconsidered.
Tony Kelly, who started life in St Teresa’s mother and baby home in Blackrock, and has campaigned for justice for the many people mistreated in all such homes, told his story to the Irish World in 2014.
Tony had searched for information on his parents for years, finding out all about them just too late after both were dead and buried.
He welcomed last week’s ruling and told the Irish World: “This is a very important decision by Mr. Justice Hogan and the other Judges who sat with him in The Supreme Court.
“It now paves the way for an untold amount of men and women who were in these homes and schools like myself and suffered abuse to go forward now and make their rightful claim for compensation for the wrongs done to them.
“As we know an awful lot of these men and women emigrated to the UK and elsewhere and sadly some never returned to Ireland.
“Many of them are like the man who took this legal challenge and cannot read or write and were unaware of time constraints.
“Of course the Redress Board did not except those facts as exceptional circumstances,” he said.
“What I would like to see now is for this judgment to be published and highlighted so that all men and women in the UK and elsewhere who spent time in these so called homes and industrial schools and suffered abuse can be made aware that they can now make an application for compensation”.
The Redress Board had originally refused to extend time for him to apply because he had not established “exceptional circumstances” as required by the 2002 law, which set up the redress system.
The man claimed he had not applied in time because he was illiterate and drank heavily between 2002 and 2005.
He had been aware from TV and radio reports of various institutional child abuse scandals but had assumed they were exclusively associated with sexual abuse and the clergy.
He had lived as a boy in St Kieran’s Industrial School where he says he suffered the abuse and only became aware of his possible entitlement when his girlfriend saw an advertisement from a local solicitor in September 2011, which was just before the cut-off date for applications to the Redress board.
Mr Justice Hogan said at the heart of the man’s claim was the refusal to extend time was based on the wrong premise of an interpretation of the words “exceptional circumstances”, as contained in Section 8(2) of the 2002 Residential Institutions Redress Board Act.
Mr Justice Hogan said a recent Supreme Court decision found the power to extend time should be given “a wide and liberal interpretation.”
A person seeking a time extension need only demonstrate the existence of exceptional circumstances in its plainest terms, he said.
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