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Dublin: 14 °C Thursday 23 October, 2014

Acquitted death-row inmate to inspire Irish teenagers with his “story of hope”

Kerry Max Cook, who spent 22 years in prison until he was proven innocent, will share his story with youth outreach movement Soar tomorrow night.

Kerry Max Cook after his release.
Kerry Max Cook after his release.
Image: Ron Heflin/Press Association Images

A FORMER DEATH row inmate is set to inspire dozens of teenagers tomorrow which his “unbelievable story of hope” of spending two decades behind bars — until he was proven innocent.

Kerry Max Cook was wrongly convicted for the rape and murder of a 21-year-old woman in 1977 and sentenced to death. However, after four attempted retrials over two decades, DNA evidence was made admissible which proved his innocence.

Youth outreach movement Soar have invited Kerry speak to 70 teenagers and 100 of their closest supporters tomorrow night in Smock Alley Theatre, “at a time when the youth of country needs support”.

Traumatic story of life in prison

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Soar co-founder Tony Griffin said that Kerry turns his traumatic story of life in prison, and the suicide attempts, physical and sexual assault, and the death of his brother, into “a story of hope”.

“The first time I saw him, I was blown away by how humble he was and how powerful his message was. It’s a story of overcoming whatever problems you face, and uncovering whatever is inside of you.”

Tony first spoke to Kerry Max Cook after a talk in Canada, where Kerry said he would be delighted to come to Ireland to speak, as the music of Dolores O’Riordan and The Cranberries helped him through some of his worse periods on death row.

Tony also stressed the importance of providing young people in Ireland with this sort of inspiration.

They’re mostly worried and concerned about their parents, who have lost faith in the organisations they would usually turn to for help in difficult times like these. At the same time, young people are being looked at for the answers, and they need to have more opportunities to give them.

“They’re so creative, full of energy and enthusiasm and come out with left-of-field solutions to problems which might otherwise be ignored, simply because they have little fear of failure”.

Soar, who help children and teenagers build self-confidence, won one of the top prizes at the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland awards last year.

Although tomorrow’s event is “full to the rafters”, Tony advised that if you know a young person who is “seriously in need of some inspiration and could benefit from the talk”, you should get in touch with Soar.ie.

Column: Tony Griffin on hearing Kerry Max Cook speak for the first time >

More: Young Irish leaders of future set to SOAR >

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