Louise O’Keeffe was described as a hero yesterday by award organisers as they formally recognised the courage and dignity she displayed throughout her 40-year campaign for justice.
“Her campaign is a tribute to her courage and tenacity and her achievement not only means children will be better protected in Ireland but across some 47 countries in Europe,” said awards organiser Manus O’Callaghan.
Ms O’Keeffe’s name now goes forward for consideration as the overall Cork Person of the Year for 2014, which will be announced in January 2015.
Ms O’Keeffe was abused by principal Leo Hickey while she was an eight-year-old student at Dunderrow National School, in Kinsale, Co Cork in 1973.
After years of frustration arising out of court decisions in Ireland, during which the State always denied liability, she took a case to the European Court of Human Rights claiming inhuman and degrading treatment through abuse at the school.
Her 40-year battle for justice ended in triumph last month when the Strasbourg-based court ruled in her favour — ruling that her rights were breached on two grounds — and granted her €100,000 compensation for the abuse she suffered.
She described the landmark judgment as a “win for the children of Ireland”.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore subsequently apologised to her for the horrendous experience she had to go through.
Mr O’Callaghan, who presented Ms O’Keeffe with the award, said her successful court ruling was very hard won.
English Market fishmonger Pat O’Connell was named Cork Person of the Month for January.
World race walking champion Rob Heffernan was named the 2013 Cork Person of the Year last month.