Cork sisters didn't know their father was abusing the other

Two daughters of a Cork man sentenced to 10 years in jail today for sexually abusing them over a number of years have told 3News that they had adored him, but he took their childhood innocence.

Melissa O’Keefe and Amy Barrett told 3News’ Southern Correspondent Paul Byrne in an exclusive interview that they did not know that former army Corporal Jerry O’Keefe was abusing the other.

When they found out they both made statements to Gardaí.

Both have now waived their anonymity so 69 year-old O’Keefe from Oakhill, Youghal, Co Cork can be identified in the media.

In July, he pleaded guilty to nine sample charges out of 78 original counts before his trial was due to begin.

When sentencing O’Keefe today Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said; “It beggars belief that a father could be what he did to a child”.

Amy Barrett said that despite her father raping her over a period of five years from when she was just seven years old she still loves him.

“I still love my Dad, and I know people might think that’s just mental, but I do,” she said.

“I looked up to him. I don’t understand. I would say to him, why? I had an opportunity to confront my Dad a few years ago, and I did, and I asked him, I said: ‘Do you remember abusing me, Dad?’

“And he said: ‘I do, girl’. Like I had just said something so casual, you know, he’s very flippant about it all, you know?

“I would ask him why, like, I didn’t deserve this, my innocence to be taken away from me, Melissa’s. It’s not fair.”

Melissa O’Keefe, who was sexually assaulted by her father for six years from the age of 11 says she cannot understand why her father did what he did to them.

“I loved my Dad, I adored him, I looked up to him, I thought he was the best thing ever,” she said.

“So I trusted him. So, like, I didn’t really understand, I didn’t like it.

“I can remember crying, but it was like Dad was just in his own world. You know he just continued, doing what he wanted to do. ”

Melissa said her father is now dead to her.

“I don’t like him, I don’t like him, I’ve nothing, no more to do with him… He’s dead to me, I suppose,” she said.

Melissa O’Keefe (left) and her sister Amy Barrett leave the Central Criminal Court in Dublin earlier this month. Pic Collins Courts.

Growing up, neither sister knew the other was being abused until both made complaints to the Gardaí.

Melissa said: “He said he did it because it happened to him. Do you know what I mean, that’s what we used to get told… like it was OK for what he did to use because it happened to him”.

Mary Crilly of the Sexual Violence Centre Cork said: “It’s never too late and I think these two women have really shown that and I really admire them and the way they really kept at it, kept holding on.

“They had a horrific life, a horrific childhood but they kept going this is going on for years and they finally have justice.”


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