Survivors of child sexual abuse to seek compensation after ECHR judgment

Wednesday 29 January 2014 23.42
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Tim O'Rourke (right) said he wants official attitudes to change
Tim O'Rourke (right) said he wants official attitudes to change
Louise O'Keeffe was sexually abused while a primary school pupil in 1973
Louise O'Keeffe was sexually abused while a primary school pupil in 1973
Eamon Gilmore said the Cabinet will discuss the findings
Eamon Gilmore said the Cabinet will discuss the findings

Survivors of sexual abuse carried out on school premises say they should be entitled to seek compensation in court after they were forced to drop legal action against the State.

It follows a European Court of Human Rights judgment that found the State was liable for the sexual abuse suffered by Louise O'Keeffe while a national school pupil.

Abuse survivor Tim O'Rourke, whose case against the State is pending, said the final uncertainty is gone after the ruling in Strasbourg.

Mr O'Rourke said he did not just want laws to change, but he wants official attitudes to change too.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has said the Cabinet will discuss the issue at its meeting next week.

The court ruled yesterday that the State had failed to meet its obligation to protect Ms O'Keeffe.

She was nine years old when she was abused by teacher Leo Hickey at Dunderrow National School in Co Cork in 1973.

Decades later, Hickey was charged with 386 criminal offences involving 21 former Dunderrow pupils.

He was sentenced to three years in prison in 1998, after pleading guilty to 21 sample charges.

Ms O'Keeffe subsequently took legal action against the Department of Education, arguing that the State had failed to put in place appropriate protection measures to prevent and stop systematic sexual abuse at her school.

However, the High Court dismissed her claim that the State was liable.

The Supreme Court subsequently upheld that ruling, finding that while the State funded the education system, the management role of the Catholic Church was such that the State could not be held vicariously liable for the criminal acts of the teacher.

However, the ECHR found that the State was liable.

Speaking this afternoon, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said Ms O'Keeffe had conducted herself with extraordinary dignity and courage.

She said she was glad that Ms O'Keeffe has had the outcome that she has had.

Ms Burton said Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn was currently studying the judgment in detail.

She said she wanted to wait to hear what Mr Quinn and Taoiseach Enda Kenny have to say about the judgment before commenting further.