Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has defended the delay in setting up a new redress scheme for victims of sexual abuse in primary schools.

He said work on a new compensation scheme to provide victims with redress did not progress because of the election and the Covid-19 emergency.
 
Mr Varadkar was responding to claims made by representatives of survivors of abuse in schools who said nothing had been done to acknowledge the suffering of victims, despite an apology to survivors in the Dáil last year. 

Campaigner for victims of child sexual abuse in primary schools, Louise O'Keeffe, said yesterday the State failed to honour a commitment to give victims access to a Government redress scheme.

Ms O'Keeffe has written to Taoiseach Micheál Martin, reminding him that Leo Varadkar made the commitment to extend access to the ex-gratia scheme in July of last year - but this has not happened.

Solicitor James MacGuill, who represents victims of sexual abuse in day schools, told RTÉ's This Week programme that the government had failed victims.

In a statement today, Leo Varadkar said that, contrary to reports, it is not the case that nothing has been done to assist victims of abuse. 
 
He said "as promised on the day of the apology, financial settlements were offered to 13 survivors.

"These settlements were made on foot of the report by Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill, who had been appointed as an independent adjudicator.
 
"Judge O'Neill found that in a number of cases, individuals should have been paid under the previous ex gratia payment scheme. Financial settlements were subsequently offered to these individuals."
 
Mr Varadkar said work had commenced on a new ex gratia scheme for survivors but, due to the election period and the Covid emergency, it had not been possible to make further progress. 
 
He noted that the new Taoiseach Micheál Martin and the Education Minister Norma Foley have indicated they will follow up on the matter.