A WOMAN who was repeatedly sexually abused by a neighbour over a six-year period has been awarded €350,000 by the High Court.
Noelle Doyle (41) was only six when the abuse by Sean Connolly, the father of one of her friends, began.
Mr Justice Kevin Cross said Ms Doyle, the mother of twins, "is an admirable person of courage who has done society a great service to bring this disgraceful matter to the attention of parents, gardai and courts".
Speaking outside court, Ms Doyle said she hoped her case would encourage other women and men to come forward.
"I've been heard, I've been vindicated. It's a long struggle to stand up for the little children we once were," she added.
Connolly, now in his 70s, of Castledermot, Athy, Co Kildare, was sentenced in 2011 to three years' imprisonment with the last year suspended when he pleaded guilty at Naas Circuit Court to six sample charges of sexual assault on Ms Doyle.
He was not present for yesterday's hearing, and the court heard he has cancer.
Mr Justice Cross said Ms Doyle was entitled to damages for the assaults and the consequences, including the heightened trauma at the time of the criminal case and the civil motion where Connolly sought to have the damages case dismissed.
He said the young girl was abused regularly by Connolly in the garden, bedroom and shed of the Connolly home, and said "a particularly sinister aspect" was that while playing hide and seek she was subjected to abuse by Connolly.
The judge said that when she went to her parents when she was 12, they "very sensibly believed her".
The judge accepted Ms Doyle has a long-standing post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of what happened. He ruled she was not entitled to aggravated damages over the move by Connolly to get the case dismissed.
In evidence, Ms Doyle told the court that when she played hide and seek with her friends, Connolly would find her first and abuse her. She said on one occasion he abused her on his daughter's bed while his wife and children were in the house.
Ms Doyle said that when she was 12, she realised what Connolly was doing was wrong and told her mother.
A meeting was arranged in a doctor's house between Ms Doyle's parents and Connolly and his wife and the local priest. Connolly admitted his wrongdoing, but it was not until 2009 that Ms Doyle felt she had the strength to go to gardai.
"He devastated my life. I could never reach my full potential after that. It was not until 2009 I felt I had the strength to go to the gardai," she said.
When Connolly expressed deep regret during his criminal case, it was too late, she said.