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Who is responsible for the welfare of children in state funded schools?

One in Four, the national charity which supports people who have experienced sexual violence, today called upon the Minister for Education and Science to act to ensure that her department assumes responsibility for the welfare of children in Irish schools. The organisation made its call following this mornings High Court Judgement finding that the State and the Franciscans of the Third Order had no liability for the sexual abuse of a then 9-13 year old boy over a four year period in the early 1970’s.

Today’s High Court judgement found that neither the Department of Education and Science which pays the salaries of primary school teachers nor religious orders whose members work in schools operated by those orders have any responsibility or liability arising from child sexual abuse perpetrated by teachers in such schools.

This case arose from abuse perpetrated by John Hannon, then a member of the Franciscans of the Third Order and a teacher in a Galway National School. The abuse occurred over a four year period in a classroom at the school where Hannon kept the door locked and the blinds pulled as he abused pupils.

The Franciscan of the Third Order today recognised the sensitive nature of the case and stated they would not make an application for costs. However, the Department of Education & Science stated that it would seek to recover its costs in the case.  The fact that the Department of Education and Science are seeking to recover costs in this case has further traumatised and humiliated this victim.

Speaking today the victim expressed his difficulty in accepting the judgement of Mr Justice Johnson. John Hannon taught in the education system for 12-15 years, in three different schools abusing children and when laicised took up a position of a lay teacher as recently as 1993. The victim is appalled that nobody has been held responsible for failures to properly monitor and this mans conduct in national schools. He feels that this latest failure to hold any agency or authority responsible is both damning and alarming. It yet again raises the question of who is responsible for the welfare of children in state funded schools.

In a case which mirrors aspects of the Louise O’Keefe case earlier this year we have a situation where a teacher systematically sexually abused children over a number of years – nobody monitored him or raised alarms when he taught with blinds down in a classroom and the door locked and yet no agency or body is deemed to be responsible for such a failure.

At what point will the state take responsibility for the education of our children?  The same system applies today – a teacher  may abuse a child and the state which trains, inspects and pays the salary of that teacher are not responsible or liable in any way and most alarmingly have no responsibility in law to prevent such abuse in the first place.

 
 

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Support and resources for people who have experienced sexual abuse and/or sexual violence.