A 42-year-old mother of two who was sexually abused by her teacher in a Co Cork primary school in the 1970s faces a legal bill of up to €500,000 following a High Court ruling today.

Mr Justice Eamon De Valera found that the State was not liable for the actions of her teacher.

Louise O'Keeffe was abused on over 20 occasions by her then teacher and Principal of Dunderrow National School in Kinsale, Leo Hickey.

In June 1998, Hickey faced 386 charges of assault. He pleaded guilty to 21 sample offences of abusing girls aged seven, eight and nine. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

In September 2002, Louise O'Keeffe was awarded €54,000 by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal.

At the time, she gave an undertaking that she would repay the tribunal if and when she was successful in any subsequent awards.

Today in the High Court, Mr Justice de Valera said he had great sympathy for Louise O'Keeffe but costs had to follow an event and there was nothing in the original trial to allow him to exercise his discretion in not awarding costs against her.

Solicitor Mary Scribbin said today's ruling had huge implications for other cases awaiting the outcome of today's action.

She said this was of enormous public interest and the question of the relationship between the school-teacher and the Department of Education needed to be addressed urgently.