Friday 15 December 2017

I'm very open to idea of meeting Louise, says apologetic Kenny

Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, T.D.pictured at the launch of Child and Family Agency at Dublin Castle
Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, T.D.pictured at the launch of Child and Family Agency at Dublin Castle

Niall O'Connor Political Correspondent

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has said he is "very open" to the idea of meeting abuse victim Louise O'Keeffe, who this week secured a landmark victory against the State.

Mr Kenny apologised to Ms O'Keeffe on behalf of the Government yesterday and paid tribute to the "extraordinary commitment" she displayed during a gruelling 15-year legal battle.

The Cabinet will decide next week whether a full state apology is issued to the mother-of-two after the European Court of Human Rights found that the State had been negligent in failing to protect her from being abused in primary school.

Ministers will also discuss the potential implications of the judgment, with the expectation now that the State will be open to a wave of compensation claims.

Ms O'Keeffe, from Cork, said she "appreciates and accepts" Mr Kenny's apology but insisted that it should have been issued years earlier.

She added that if she received an apology previously, she would have dropped her case.

"I appreciate the fact that he did it quickly. I would like to think that he is apologising on all accounts.

"I would never have looked for an apology for myself. I wanted an apology for all the victims of abuse in schools because there are many who have never spoken of it.

"If I had gotten an apology 15 years ago, I would not have been in the courts. I do not understand why the State fought the case. I was an eight-year-old child and I was abused. Wrong was done and hands should have been held up."

Mr Kenny issued the apology on behalf of the Government during the launch of the Child and Family Agency at Dublin Castle.

He said she endured a "horrendous experience" in a place that is considered to be safe.

"Sadly, it's one that's indicative of a long litany of cases in Ireland," Mr Kenny said. "That's why in the past we've had to deal with an exceptional number of cases that scar our memory.

"And for that reason, I just think that while this judgment is exceptionally complex and will be studied by government, I would like to say to Louise O'Keeffe that I apologise for what happened to her in the location she was in and the horrendous experience she had to go through."

Ms O'Keeffe said she would have had a "safe childhood" if the authorities had acted upon an official complaint made in relation to her abuse.

"I was an eight-year-old child, abused. A complaint had been made, it wasn't acted on. If it had been acted on, I would have had a safe childhood. Wrong was done. I think hands should have been held up."

Asked whether the Taoiseach would now meet Ms O'Keeffe, a government spokesman told the Irish Independent: "The Taoiseach would be very open to the idea.

"He notes that the apology was graciously accepted by Louise."

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore joined Mr Kenny in making an apology to Ms O'Keeffe but stopped short in giving an apology to all victims of abuse in schools.

"I admire Louise O'Keeffe and I join with the Taoiseach in apologising to her for what happened in that school, for the horrendous experience that she had to go through."

The Labour leader said that he believed the implications of the judgment were "very profound for the patronage system of schools and for the relationship now between the State and patrons of schools".

The European court ruled on Tuesday that the State had been negligent in failing to protect her from abuse in national school.

The court found that her rights had been breached under Section 3 and 13 of European law – with the State now liable to compensate the mother for what she suffered.

Irish Independent

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