Courage, grace, and an unbending sense of what is right and wrong: this is what we saw this week in a woman who ardently refused to surrender when all around advised her to drop arms, raise the white flag and walk away from her battle with the State.
The tenacity and strength displayed by Cork woman Louise O’Keeffe awed the nation.
Here was a woman who spent 15 years fighting for an acknowledgement the State had been negligent in failing to protect her when she was sexually abused by her national school principal 30 years ago.
When the courts told her she was wrong, she refused to listen, when they told her they’d take her house from under if she persevered, she still wouldn’t be deterred. She believed in what she was doing.
After weeks of CRC, Rehab, and whistleblower scandals and years of tawdry tales of how cabals of politicians, bankers, and developers sunk this country, idealism can seem near extinct.
And then someone like Louise O’Keeffe gets their day. Eventually.
To give him his due, Enda Kenny did apologise to Ms O’Keeffe later in the week. But Enda won’t budge beyond that apology. We see no evidence of any policy shift in the adversarial approach taken by the State to victims of abuse in Irish day schools.
We don’t see any admission of liability to the thousands of other victims who the State bullied out of the courts.
In Cork yesterday, he batted off questions about the State’s future liability by declaring the judgment “complex”. There were any God’s amount of legal professionals taking it apart, the Taoiseach said, without him adding his tuppence worth.
And so his sincerity was diluted somewhat, his remorse qualified.
But what really stank for many was that he was in Louise’s hometown yesterday but didn’t attempt to meet her for 15 minutes. Could he not look her in the eye when she asked the hard questions?
Instead, after making a keynote speech at UCC, his cavalcade swung towards the English Market to meet Cork’s best-known fishmonger, the Queen’s Irish pen pal, Pat O’Connell.
Enda seemed visibly relaxed as both men guffawed, drank tea and swapped anecdotes about the Queen’s historic visit.
Pat O’Connell has been a great ambassador for the city. However, Louise O’Keeffe has been a hero.
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