Abused woman 'will be treated sensitively over court costs'

A mother of two who is facing a legal bill of €500,000 after losing a court battle against the State will be treated sensitively, an official body said today.

A mother of two who is facing a legal bill of €500,000 after losing a court battle against the State will be treated sensitively, an official body said today.

The State Claims Agency will be meeting lawyers for Louise O’Keeffe, 41, who was sexually abused by her teacher in the 1970s, over the next few days to consider the matter of costs.

Ciaran Breen, head of claims with the State Claims Agency, said: “I am going to be talking to her lawyers over the next few days and I want to respect the negotiations that will take place there and the privacy of those negotiations.

“But it is certainly the case we will be looking at that case sensitively and in a measured way.”

The High Court found the State was not to blame for the indecent assaults inflicted on Ms O’Keeffe by a primary school principal when she was eight years old.

Costs, amounting to around €500,000, were awarded against the mother of two by the court after she failed to hold the State accountable.

Ms O’Keeffe said she was devastated by the ruling and warned that everything she owned would not amount to €500,000.

In the 1970s, Ms O’Keeffe was abused by Leo Hickey, her then teacher and principal of Dunderrow National School in Kinsale, Co Cork.

In 1998, Hickey pleaded guilty to 21 charges of indecent assault from a sample 380 counts involving 21 girls and was jailed for three years.

Mr Breen said: “In the past it is certainly the case that we have negotiated with persons who are unsuccessful in suing the State in relation to their costs bill. As I said, we look at that in a very measured way.”

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