The Government's compensation scheme, established four years ago for people abused as children in day schools, has paid nothing to survivors.

One victim has been told by the State Claims Agency that the Department of Education had failed to provide documents it sought from officials a year-and-a-half earlier in order to process his claim.

Five years ago, after a 15-year legal battle with the Government, Cork woman Louise O'Keeffe persuaded the European Court of Human Rights that the State was vicariously liable for the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her former national school principal, Leo Hickey.

The Government established an "ex gratia" - or out-of-court - compensation scheme for anyone falling into the same category as Ms O'Keeffe and who had stopped suing the State.

But applicants have sharply criticised it, and last July the Dáil voted that they should no longer have to prove that their abuser had already been reported to the authorities for similar crimes before he abused them.

The proposed reform applied only to victims of convicted abusers.

A spokesman for the Department of Education has confirmed to RTÉ News that the scheme has paid out no compensation despite receiving 50 applications over a four year period.

One applicant, John Allen from Cork city, has been informed in letters from the State Claims Agency, which is administering the scheme, that the Department had failed to provide documents it sought from officials in order to process his claim 18 months earlier.

The Department said it would not comment on any specifics of Mr Allen's case.


In Depth: School abuse victims' long fight for compensation


Speaking to RTÉ's This Week, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the "prior complaint" condition stops victims from getting compensation.

"It's quite shocking, what we are hearing. I think the Government's approach has been dishonest, and I think it represents a cynical and cruel disregard for the victims of child sexual abuse in primary schools. You shouldn't raise expectations. Victims of child sexual abuse go through terrible trauma. Their lives are broken," he said.

Deputy Martin said both the Ombudsman for Children and the Irish Commission of Human Rights and Equality have sought the expansion of the scheme, to get rid of the prior complaint rule.

He added that the European Court has essentially accused the State of not having proper systems in place to protect children.

Mr Martin called on the State to respond in a far more generous way than it is currently doing.

The Department of Education released a statement saying the Government is "deeply conscious of the trauma and distress" suffered by the survivors of abuse. 

While reiterating that evidence of a prior complaint is required to demonstrate that the State "could or should have had knowledge of the danger posed by a perpetrator of sexual abuse", the Department's spokesman said some cases have been settled outside the confines of the ex gratia scheme.

The 44 applications to the scheme that have been declined can be submitted for an independent assessment, with the outcome on the remaining 20 cases expected shortly, the statement concluded.


If you have been affected by the issues raised in this story, you can call the Rape Crisis Centre national 24-hour helpline at 1800 77 8888