Abuse survivor: State dragging its heels on EU ruling

Abuse survivor Louise O’Keeffe — who won a landmark case against the Government in the European courts — has again accused the State of dragging its heels over its response to her case.

Abuse survivor: State dragging its heels on EU ruling

“We are now eight months down the road from my European judgment and, effectively, nothing has changed,” she said.

“Europe found the State responsible for my case but they haven’t owned up to that responsibility yet — and that is what is needed.”

Ms O’Keeffe was speaking yesterday after addressing Network Ireland’s national conference in Co Kildare celebrating leading Irish business women, which was attended by Tánaiste Joan Burton.

Ms O’Keeffe accused Jan O’Sullivan, the education minister, of ignoring her requests for a personal meeting, and said Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who apologised publicly to her after the European ruling, has yet to meet her face-to-face.

She told Ms Burton that effectively nothing has changed since the EU ruling, and asked her to raise her concerns directly with the Taoiseach and the minister.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled last January that the State had failed to protect Ms O’Keeffe from being abused by her primary school principal Leo Hickey, at Dunderrow National School near Kinsale, Co Cork, in 1973.

The landmark win followed a 15-year legal action against the Department of Education.

The Government sub-mitted a draft action plan in response to the case to the Council of Europe in July. It said an interdepartmental subcommittee had been formed to review child protection measures in the school system and the impact of the O’Keeffe judgment.

It also said that the State Claims Agency had completed a review of its day-school abuse cases to identify those that came within the parameters of the judgment.

A department spokes-person confirmed yesterday the education minister will report back to Government on issues relating to the handling of this litigation “in a matter of weeks”.

But Ms O’Keeffe said the speed with which the Government was dealing with those issues now stands in stark contrast to the speed with which it moved after she lost her Supreme Court challenge in 2008.

“Just five weeks after I lost my Supreme Court case, the Government wrote to people involved in 135 similar cases urging them to drop their cases by March the following year, or face the financial consequences,” she said. “Those who didn’t drop their cases by that deadline got a reminder letter days later, on April 2.”

She said several individuals felt “intimidated” into dropping their cases. There are about 44 live cases today.

“But where is the speed now?” Ms O’Keeffe said.

“We are now eight months down the road from my European judgment, and they can’t write to any of them. I think that speaks volumes Nothing has changed. The situation facing those people who have cases pending hasn’t changed one iota.

“As far as they are concerned, the State is still fighting them. It is absolutely outrageous.

“This is a case no longer about Louise O’Keeffe. It’s about how we care for children in our schools. It’s about how we deal with our history.

“If we can’t accept responsibility for the past, where are we going for the future?”

More in this section

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on
www.irishexaminer.com/podcasts

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence