Written Answers - State Claims Agency.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 678 No. 2

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  1025.  Deputy Brian Hayes  Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes   asked the Minister for Education and Science  Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe   if, in connection with the recent action (details supplied) in the context of the importance of this case and for education policy in general, and the issue of vicarious liability which was raised in this case, his Department will waive their costs in connection with this case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10948/09]

Minister for Education and Science (Deputy Batt O’Keeffe): Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  In relation to the case raised by the Deputy, I wish to advise the House in the first instance that the matter is being handled by the State Claims Agency on behalf of the State. Judgement has been reserved on the issue of costs which was heard on Monday 23rd February. From the State’s perspective, it was necessary to have such a hearing as the person in question was seeking her costs against the State. The State had to make a case for its costs given that the State was found not liable by either the High Court or the Supreme Court.

I do not wish to pre-empt the pending judgement on the issue of costs, which is entirely a matter for the Courts to decide. I can however tell you that Counsel for the State told the Supreme Court that, while an award of costs against the Plaintiff was being sought, the matter of enforcement would be treated with great sensitivity. Our desire is to strike a fair balance — on the one hand to treat this person in a humane manner and, on the other, the need to protect the taxpayer against costs incurred in defending cases where the Courts have decided that the State has no liability. As I have already stated as a matter of public record, there is no question of the State seeking to take this person’s house.

My Department however cannot sustain a position whereby persons can take cases against the State on the basis that, win or lose, they would get their costs. This is not a financially sustainable position and would be grossly unfair to the taxpayers of this country. The State’s position in all such cases has been that it should not have been sued because the Minister for Education & Science has no direct involvement in the daily running of a school. The Manager of a school is directly responsible for the day-to-day operation and governance of a school. This position has been clearly conveyed by the State Claims Agency to all such parties engaging in legal proceedings against my Department.

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