Sinead Carroll, Partner in Cantillons Solicitors, an experienced Litigation Solicitor, writing today states as follows:
“Persons with physical and mental disabilities should be treated with respect and obtain whatever medical, intellectual, educational, therapeutic or other interventions that are required.
Over the years, the State has failed, abysmally, those who are in most need and deserving of our support. Persons with either intellectual or physical disabilities were locked up in State institutions and spent lifetimes there. Persons with intellectual disabilities were deemed not to be entitled to primary education. Indeed, it wasn’t until the ground-breaking cases of O’Donoghue –v- The Minister for Education and the subsequent case of Sinnott –v- The Minister of Education, that the rights of persons with intellectual disabilities to education were recognised. Up to the time that these cases were heard, the Department of Education effectively provided no more than babysitting facilities, in what were termed “Care Facilities”. Schools were not provided. The State was dragged kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century, as a consequence of the litigation of O’Donoghue and Sinnott.
However, behind closed doors, there continued to be ambivalence in our attitude to persons with disabilities. We turned a blind eye to those that were sexually abused. We turned a blind eye to those who were physically abused. We sub-contracted our obligations to religious organisations or other charitable bodies, but failed to supervise them. All of this, of course, came with a huge cost to those that had been abused physically and sexually in the State run facilities, or in facilities that the State sub-contracted their obligations to.
RTE’s “Primetime Investigates” programme is to be commended and complimented for exposing the ongoing problems in Care Facilities (perhaps totally inappropriately so-called) throughout the country. Not alone had this abuse occurred in such facilities but it also occurred in unregulated foster homes.
There needs to be an open and transparent investigation into what happened and why it happened. Having a secret commission or a scoping investigation as it is sometimes called, is not appropriate and is a recipe for a repetition of abuse into the future. We need to expose the awfulness of what has happened and let everybody know and thus, try to prevent it happening again.
Simultaneously, those that have been abused or those who are not getting their appropriate care and treatment, should bring proceedings for the State’s failures.
In my experience, it is only from the consequence of litigation that the State will sit up and start remedying the situation. I point to the development of Special Education, which I believe, has come on by leaps and bounds since the O’Donoghue and Sinnott cases.
Similarly, I believe we can bring an end to the current and awful situation in the Care Facilities (both State run, privately run and foster homes) by exposing what has happened and seeking redress for those who have suffered.”
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