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The European Court of Human Rights. eggs-on-toast via Flickr/Creative Commmons
Louise O'Keeffe

Sexual abuse ruling will have “significant implications” for the State

The Department of Education called such abuse “a source of national shame”, and noted that the ruling is ‘binding’ on the State.

Updated at 10.45pm

THE DEPARTMENT OF Education said today that the State will take “the necessary steps” to implement a landmark ruling on sexual abuse.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the State is liable for abuse suffered by Louise O’Keeffe, who argued that the State failed to structure the primary education system so as to protect her.

Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn said that “it would appear” that the ruling will have “significant implications”, although was unable to comment further, saying the ruling was being “digested”.

“That’s not to say that I don’t in anyway sympathise and relate to and understand the difficult journey that she has now completed in terms of getting a judgement,” he said.

“This is a very dark chapter from our past which we will confront in this generation. The full scale of the response to that I am not able to say.”

We will be looking at the implications that result in consultation with both the Attorney General and people in the Department of Education and elsewhere.

In a statement this afternoon, the Department noted that the ruling is “binding on the State” and called such abuse “a source of national shame”.

It has taught us lessons that we as a country must never forget.

The statement goes to highlight “robust child protection measures” currently implemented by the State, and governed by the newly founded Child and Family Agency.

It also notes the the “Stay Safe” programme, that helps “children develop the skills necessary to enable them to recognise and resist abuse and potentially abusive situations”.


Sexual violence support organisation One in Four “warmly welcomed” the ruling, with Executive Director Maeve Lewis praising O’Keeffe for ‘courageously taking on the power of the state’.

“Today’s judgement will ensure that the Department of Education must now be responsible for the conduct of teachers and for the safety of children attending school,” she said.

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre said it will have “far reaching positive effects for child protection in Ireland”.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have both called for action by the government following today’s ruling.


“An acknowledgement by the state of the wrongdoing is something that obviously should be forthcoming,” Fianna Fáil’s health spokesperson Billy Kelleher said.

“Previous governments have done that with regard to issuing apologies to people who either directly or indirectly were harmed because of negligence either of the state itself or arms of the state, or agencies of the state”

“Something should be forthcoming to alleviate her suffering,” he said.

Sinn Féin’s Jonathan O’Brien highlighted that 200 other similar cases are in progress.

“I am calling on the Government to address these as a matter of urgency so that victims of child abuse may be spared an ordeal similar to Louise O’Keefe”, he said.

He said that while the government apologised in the wake of the Ryan report, the State has ‘continued to fail those children by placing obstacles in their way’.

Additional reporting by Hugh O’Connell

Originally published 1.41pm

Background: Landmark European judgement finds Irish State liable for sexual abuse >

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