February 2, 2023
Repeated state scandals underpin need for class action legislation – Martin Kenny TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Martin Kenny TD, has responded to allegations of a comprehensive state strategy of withholding payment for nursing homes and disability allowance. 

Teachta Kenny said:

“We have seen this time and again, the state and the State Claims Agency forcing people through the courts to simply have their rights vindicated. This week it is nursing home costs and disability allowance supplements, last week it was failure in children’s mental health service, before that the scandal of the day was CervicalCheck.

“There is a deeply disturbing pattern of behaviour on behalf of the state where some state bodies actively work to conceal the truth from people, either related to their care or the cost of their care, in order to protect state coffers. This week we have seen the fallout from the active campaign to cover up the liability faced by the state for providing nursing home care. 

“The plan devised by senior staff was to tirelessly fight people’s claims related to nursing homes, and effectively walk families to the steps of the court before they would settle, all the while knowing they were in the wrong. The intention of the state has been to send out the message that ‘there is no easy money to be gotten here’.

“This was the same strategy we saw employed by the state when the CervicalCheck scandal broke, and indeed it is still a strategy they continue to use with the families affected by that screening failure. 

“The introduction of class-party or multi-party legal actions would have brought cases such as these to a conclusion much quicker, and spared families the heartache and financial stress of going through an adversarial court system one by one with state bodies who were prepared to go to great lengths to avoid admitting any wrongdoing. 

“Sinn Féin has a bill within the Dáil which would allow for class actions. The Multi Party Actions Bill 2017 would allow families to join together where the same wrong has been committed repeatedly and hold the relevant state body or private company responsible. 

“The families involved in holding the state rightly to account here are not people with endless means to employ large legal teams through an expensive High Court process. They are ordinary, decent people oftentimes taking these cases on behalf of a vulnerable or terminally ill loved one. This is in contrast to the State Claims Agency which has the power and means to fight these families all the way to a courtroom, where cost seems to be immaterial. 

“Fine Gael has held justice for over a decade and have yet to make any move towards making the justice system more accessible for those who have been failed by state bodies. I am urging the Minister to engage with our bill immediately, and offer a solution to those who have been denied accountability.”

The Multi Party Actions Bill can be read here

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