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New law for child safety in weeks – Enda

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny, has promised new child protection legislation will be enacted within weeks as part of the apology to abuse victim Louise O'Keeffe (right).

Mr Kenny personally apologised to the Cork mother-of-two, after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in her favour in a landmark legal judgment last week.

But Ms O'Keeffe stressed that while she appreciated the Taoiseach's apology, a far better gesture of State regret would be enacting legislation to ensure Ireland prevents such abuse from ever happening again.

Now Mr Kenny has vowed that his Government will deliver on both that apology and promise.

"She is right, I have spoken to Children's Minister (Frances Fitzgerald) about this and the Children's First legislation I would expect will be crafted and presented within a matter of weeks," he said.

"We will certainly be very happy to respond to Louise O'Keeffe's call here. This is a priority piece of legislation for Government. I will see to it that that happens."

An official at Minister Fitzgerald's office said the 'Children's First Bill 2014' is due before Cabinet within the next four weeks.

"This is a long-standing policy which has been in being for almost 10 years," they said.


"It was recently reviewed and will be put on a statutory footing with this legislation. It will give the most comprehensive legal protection ever to children."

The ECHR ruled that the Kinsale woman's human rights were breached on two grounds following abuse she suffered as an eight-year-old girl in a Cork national school in 1973, at the hands of her then principal.

The man, Leo Hickey, was subsequently jailed. The State contested Ms O'Keeffe's damages claims in both the High Court and Supreme Court as well as in the ECHR.

The State insisted that the school board of management was responsible and not the Department of Education.

It remains to be seen whether the Strasbourg judgement will lead to actions from a further 200 abuse victims who suspended their actions when Ms O'Keeffe lost her High Court case and was threatened with ruinous costs.

Mr Kenny said he wants to see Ms O'Keeffe's demands acted upon.

He added that his apology was "wholesome and sincere" and was accepted by Louise O'Keeffe and her solicitor.