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Dublin: 7°C Sunday 11 April 2021

Sisters abused by father: 'I didn't deserve this, my innocence to be taken away from me'

Jerry O’Keeffe (68) has pleaded guilty to three charges of rape and a number of sexual assault charges.

Some elements of this story may be upsetting to read. 

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

TWO DAUGHTERS OF a retired soldier sentenced to 10 years in jail today for raping and sexually abusing them when they were children said they “still love” him, despite the fact that he took their childhood innocence.

Today, Jerry O’Keeffe (68), of Oakhill, Youghal, Cork, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to three charges of rape, five of indecent assault and one of sexual assault. These were nine sample charges out of a total of 78 covering a period from January 1980 to March 1987.

O’Keeffe’s daughters, Melissa O’Keeffe and Amy Barrett told to 3News this evening that they did not know that their father was abusing the other.

Previously the court heard that the rape charges and two charges of indecent assault related to O’Keeffe’s eldest daughter, Amy Barrett, and took place at the family home.

Justice Patrick McCarthy said the defendant’s rape of his daughter Amy occurred over a period of five years, starting when she was eight years old, was a commonplace event and amounted to “repeated extremely serious abuse”.

‘I still love my dad’

Amy Barrett said that despite her father raping her over a period of five years, she still loves him.

“I still love my dad, and I know people might think that’s just mental, but I do,” she told 3News’ southern correspondent Paul Byrne.

“I had an opportunity to confront my dad a few years ago and I did, and I ask him.. I said ‘Do you remember abusing me, dad?’ and he said ‘I do, girl’ like I had just said something so casual. He’s very flippant about it all,” she said.

I would ask him why… I didn’t deserve this, my innocence to be taken away from me… It’s not fair.

CORK SISTERS 2 Amy Barrett and Melissa O'Keeffe Source: TV3

In Court, Justice McCarthy said the assaults against Melissa O’Keeffe which began when she was 11 and went on for six years, were also extremely serious.

Melissa O’Keeffe told 3News she cannot understand why her father did what he did to her and her sister.

“I loved my dad, I adored him, I looked up to him, I thought he was the best thing ever,” Melissa said.

“I trusted him. So, like, I didn’t really understand, I didn’t like it.

I can remember crying, but it was like dad was just in his own world. You know when he just continued, doing what he wanted to do.

‘I was heartbroken’

Growing up, neither Melissa O’Keeffe or Amy Barrett knew the other was being abused until they both made statements to Gardaí.

“I don’t like him, I don’t like him, I’ve nothing, no more to do with him, do you know what I mean? He’s dead to me, I suppose,” Melissa O’Keeffe said.

Amy Barrett said she grew up believing she was “daddy’s girl” and was heartbroken when she found out that her father also called her sister that.

“Anytime I tell someone it is difficult, like, there are very few people that know the actual details of the abuse, because like I said it is embarrassing… My plan is to hand back all those horrible feelings,” Amy said.

I thought I was daddy’s girl. I was heartbroken when my dad actually told me no, you weren’t.

“And then Melissa said to me, she thought she was daddy’s girl as well, and I just thought that can’t be right, I was his girl,” she said.

Both victims have urged anyone who is being abused to come forward, seek help and report the crime.

Mary Crilly of the Sexual Violence Centre Cork said she “really admires” Melissa O’Keefe and Amy Barrett for sharing their story.

“It’s never too late and I think these two women have really shown that,” she said.

“They had a horrific life, a horrific childhood, but they kept going… and they finally have justice.”

With reporting by Sarah Jane Murphy

Read: Retired soldier who raped daughter and regularly abused another jailed for 10 years

More: Gardaí believe man found in Donegal house was murdered

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