Abuse victim to get €115k State payout

Louise O'Keeffe. Photo: Garrett White/Collins Court

Ralph Riegel

THE State must pay a Cork mother €115,000 for the abuse she endured in a primary school after a landmark European Court of Human Rights ruling.

But legal experts warned that Louise O'Keeffe's victory in the ECHR may not guarantee compensation for other Irish abuse victims.

While the ECHR decision is binding in relation to the Cork woman, it is not being interpreted by the Government as applicable to over 200 other abuse victims who have signalled potential actions.

Settlement of all 200 actions is estimated at €50m-plus.

Louise O'Keeffe (46) wept as she hailed the shock Strasbourg court decision as "a great day for the children of Ireland".

The ECHR ruled Louise had her human rights breached when she was abused by her then-primary school principal in 1973.

"This is a great day for the children of Ireland," Louise said. "It is such good news ... this is not just me. It is for every child who ever attends a school."

She now wants a personal apology from the Government.

Her victory was hailed by the Irish Human Rights Commission, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and One In Four.

The mother-of-two paid glowing tribute to her legal team, led by solicitor Ernest Cantillon.

Mr Cantillon urged the Government to now act on the ECHR ruling.


"The State will no longer be able to hide behind boards of management that they set up, in an attempt to place a buffer between themselves and the responsibility for wrongs that might occur in the classroom," he said.

"What was particularly hurtful was that the State sought to blame Louise's parents, who are now dead, and indeed the parents of the other children, for not reporting the abuse. Indeed, we found out, during the course of this litigation, that the parents of one little girl did indeed complain."

The Department of Education confirmed that the ECHR judgement is being assessed.

"The abuse to which Louise O'Keeffe and many others were subjected to in our recent past is a source of national shame and it has taught us lessons that we as a country must never forget," a spokesperson said.

The Department confirmed the ECHR ruled Louise should be paid €30,000 damages and €85,000 in respect of costs and expenses. Louise was abused by her then-principal, Leo Hickey, at Dunderrow NS in 1973.

Louise won an initial legal victory in July 2012 when the top EU court agreed to hear her case despite vehement opposition by the Government.

Louise also took a civil action against Leo Hickey, who is now retired, and was awarded a monthly payment of around €400.

Hickey was jailed for three years in 1998 for indecent assault.