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'I need her to know she will never be forgiven for what she did to me'


Brave Cora Desmond suffered in silence at the hand of her stepmother Bridget Kenneally

Brave Cora Desmond suffered in silence at the hand of her stepmother Bridget Kenneally

Brave Cora Desmond suffered in silence at the hand of her stepmother Bridget Kenneally

For Cora Desmond, the fairytale story of Cinderella will always be a nightmare.

The 21-year-old was forced throughout a decade of abuse by her cruel stepmother to regard the children's tale with fear as she was mocked about being 'Cora-Ella' - told she was unloved, unwanted and forced to work while other children played.

Beaten with a poker and forced to eat chilli powder and mustard as well as drink vinegar, her shocking childhood became a never-ending fear of torture. 

The youngster was made to wash floors and do laundry while her friends played.

Her greatest fear came from her stepmother's taunts that if she ever told anyone about what was being done to her, she would lose her entire family.

Neither her father nor her biological mother was aware of what was happening.

However, the young Cork woman found the courage to contact the authorities about what she was subjected to over 10 years and, on Tuesday, her stepmother Bridget Kenneally (49) was jailed for two years.



Bridget Kenneally

Bridget Kenneally

Bridget Kenneally

While the part-time Youghal cleaner pleaded guilty to a single assault charge dating from 2009, Judge Seán O Donnabháin stressed he was taking the entire background of the case into consideration with sentencing.

The judge warned it was: "A case of continued brutality. This was systemic abuse and cruelty."

For Cora, the courage to come forward came from her burning desire to see justice done - and for other children to be spared her ordeal.

"I was six when it started and I was 16 years old when I reported it," she said.

"It has been tough but I have been lucky in that I have an amazing family and friends.

"I have counsellors now to help me and the gardaí were incredible the way they supported me and believed in me.

"I have a job and I am doing the best I can to get on with my life. But, yes, there are days when it is not easy."

Cora said she views the prison sentence as a form of closure.

"I got some justice. It is better than nothing. But I wish none of this had ever happened.

"I need her to know she will never be forgiven for what she did to me, a little child. She ruined my childhood.

"I know there are people out there going through awful things - probably even a good bit worse than what I endured.

"But if I can help one person by speaking out, then it is something.

"You might think no one will listen or believe you. But that person might be the very one that helps you.

"They might be the one to believe you, support you and let the truth be known.

"I got incredible support from gardaí. Sergeant Mark Ward was absolutely amazing.

"When gardaí started investigating, the records from doctors and teachers were all there.

"I met her (stepmother) when I was five and I was just after turning six when the beatings started.

"It started with the odd slap and a punch here and there. But it got worse and worse as time went on.

"I was the youngest, I was skinny and small so I was the easiest of targets.

"There were constant threats about what would happen if I told anyone about what was happening.


"It happened so regular that I thought it was normal until one day in primary school I was chatting with a friend and I was shocked when she said her parents never hit her.

"I thought it was absolutely normal for a child to be hit. I couldn't understand it. But she (stepmother) kept telling me I deserved it."

The emotional dam finally broke when Cora was 16 years old and found herself on her own with her biological mother who had concerns about her daughter's welfare.

"I was talking to my mother one night and I just broke down. My mother didn't know about what had happened.

"My father didn't know either. When I told her after breaking down, my mother immediately rang the gardaí."

Cora said she was overwhelmed to realise that gardaí believed her and launched an investigation.

"I was nothing but a punching bag to Bridget. (She) gave me the name 'Cora-Ella' and told me I was just like Cinderella because I was the one who was not wanted or loved."