Month: January 2020

Catholic Church Facing Compensation Cases in Relation to Illegal Adoptions

The first of many expected compensation claims in relation to illegal adoptions, arranged by the Catholic Church of children born in the Republic of Ireland, has been registered at the High Court. 

148 people are now involved in the cases about the adoptions which involved forging birth certificates and other baptismal records. This number has grown since it was first revealed as 126 by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar 20 months in May 2018. The Taoiseach, speaking at the time, told the Dáil that the disclosures of the adoptions amounted to “another chapter from the very dark history of our country” which had “robbed children – our fellow citizens – of their identity”

The plaintiff in this particular case is well known Belfast actor Patrick FitzSymons, who was born to an unmarried couple in Co Clare in the 1960s. His parents, trying to avoid the stigma of having a child out of wedlock permitted the Catholic church agency St Patrick’s Guild to have him adopted to a married couple in Co Antrim. 

Mr FitzSymons said that his adoptive parents, who are now both deceased had “loved me and provided for me as best they could’ and that his “natural parents, my birth mother in particular, had endured the institutional shaming and disapproval of Ireland at that time to do what she thought to be the right thing”.

During summer 2018, Mr FitzSymons was told by Tusla his births was mistakenly registered between 1946 and 1969 by the Dublin-based St Patrick’s Guild.

He has previously spoken about the emotional suffering of both sets of parents to the incident. He remarked: “My natural parents, my birth mother in particular, had endured the institutional shaming and disapproval of Ireland at that time to do what she thought to be the right thing.”

He also spoke about how he discovered that he was adopted. He said: “My adopted mother and I were forever falling out, partly about religion. She possibly felt she had not properly fulfilled her promise to bring me up as a Catholic – because that had been the only stipulation. Rather cryptically, in a letter, I had written something along the lines ‘if you want to talk to kids you should talk to people who have had kids of their own’. I can’t remember what the context of that was. But one evening I was just having a regular visit with her and she asked if I had ever had the intuition that I was adopted. I just said ‘no’ and she said: ‘There’s something I need to tell you’. Well, the bottom fell out of my world. She said it was only fair that I did know. Perhaps she had been planning to tell me anyway.”

The legal firm handling Mr FitzSymon’s case, Dublin-based Coleman Legal Partners, are handling 25 similar cases, at present, and are expecting that number to grow even more. .

Mr FitzSymons solicitor, Norman Spicer of Coleman Legal Partners. said that the firm is handling a number of cases like this but admitted that there are no plans to apply for a “class action” order because of the complexity of the individual cases.

He said: “There is no provision for the North American-style of ‘class action’ under Irish law. However, a court has discretion to grant an order which may mirror to some extent the other system for a specific case or set of cases. We do not envisage making such an application. These are complex cases involving many different defendants, as a result it is difficult to say how long these cases will take as it depends on all of the parties involved and how quickly responses, replies and motions, and so on, can be turned around. Three years (the estimated time the case will take to process) would not be an unreasonable time frame but this is dependent upon many factors and is really only a ‘ballpark’ estimate.”

 

 

 

 

 

School Door Accident Compensation of €10,000 Awarded to Young Girl

A girl from Dublin, who suffered a slightly stunted finger injury after her hand was caught in in a door in her primary school, has been awarded school door accident compensation of €10,000 at Dublin District Court.

The second class pupil took the personal injury compensation action via her mother against Knockmore Junior School, located in Tallaght, in relation to the injuries she sustained in 2017.

The district court was informed that the young girl got her little finger caught in a doorway. In an attempt to settle the case an offer of €10,000 was made. In court medical reports and pictures of the hand injury were provided to Judge Michael Coghlan.

The judge was advised that medical reports indicated the girl’s hand was completely rehabilitated within three months. Her finger was slightly stunted, by 20pc, in comparison the same finger on her other hand,  and there was slight disfigurement in that finger. She experienced pain when getting nails cut had been an issue but this has not subsided in the intervening two and a half years, counsel said.

The judge asked that the girl be brought close to the judge so he could look at her hands. Judge Coghlan said that they were right to bring it to his attention. However, he was not happy it was a major injury deformity and not going to inflict embarrassment.

In relation to it looking different to the same finger on her other hand, he said, it was unlucky it happened. He said: “If you can find a person with identical hands you could put them in the Guinness Book of Records, no one has identical hands.”

Judge Coghlan gave his approval for a €10,000 school injury compensation award. He said that the money was to be paid into court funds on behalf of the girl until she comes of age.

He dismissed an application by her lawyer to make available €500 for immediate payment because her first holy communion was coming up. In addition to this he awarded €1,422 in special damages or expenses.

Facebook & YouTube Moderators Asked to Complete PTSD disclosure

In a somewhat concerning move content moderators for social media platforms, both new hires and existing staff, are being issued with a disclosure statement to complete which states that they are fully aware of the possibility that the content they must view as part of their duties may result in them suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It has been reported by both The Financial Times and The Verge that Accenture – a professional services firm which is often used by Google, Facebook and Twitter – issued the forms to existing members of staff as an update and to new hires taking up moderator positions.

Accenture contractors are employed as external outside monitors for social media sites. They are typically given duties including deleting any inappropriate content. In order to accomplish this task they must view and hear disturbing posts of a violent or sexual nature. A normal day’s work would include these moderators considering the inappropriate nature of objectionable materials and looking over hundreds of disturbing images.

“I understand the content I will be reviewing may be disturbing. It is possible that reviewing such content may impact my mental health, and it could even lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” the statement read.

The notices were sent to Accenture employees in the United States and Europe. Accenture operates at least three content moderation offices for Facebook in Europe, including centres in Warsaw, Lisbon and Dublin, where workplace safety rules are some of the most stringent globally and include protections for mental health issues.

This is particularly worrying as it comes at a time when Facebook is preparing to face legal actions from former content moderators in relation to a variety of different mental health issues experienced in California and Ireland.

Reacting to the move made by Accenture, Facebook has issued a statement claiming that it was not asked to approve or review Accenture’s new form. However the statement did say that Facebook partners are required to provide psychological support for content moderators. Google – YouTube’s parent company – also moved to advise the public that it was not given the opportunity to look over the  documents in question and also directs its partners to have in place mental health supports.

The forms were sent to the moderators and included details of support services that are provided by Accenture such as a hotline and a wellness coach. However these services are not managed by professionally trained experts as, according to Accenture they “cannot diagnose or treat mental disorders”.

Accenture issued a statement which said that the health and said the wellbeing of its contractors is was a “top priority”. It also said that only new joiners were being asked to sign the forms, whereas current employees were being sent the form as an update. The statement read: “We regularly update the information we give our people to ensure that they have a clear understanding of the work they do”.

It is of the utmost importance that social media moderators who are in receipt of this form should not sign any form like this without first consulting with a legal representative who is experienced in these matters.