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Continued failure to address the Louise O’Keefe case compounding harm

One in Four, the national charity which supports people who have experienced sexual violence, today repeated its call for the Minister of Education and Science, Mary Hanafin T.D. to urgently clarify whether the State will seek to enforce an order granting it costs in the case taken by Louise O’Keefe, the County Cork woman sexually abused as a child by her then school principal.

Colm O'Gorman, Director of One in Four, criticised the Minister for her continuing failure to address the issue. “The Minister and her Department have repeatedly distanced themselves from responsibility for any decision to recover costs despite the assertion by the head of claims at the Agency who said on Rte’s Morning Ireland last Friday, ‘we always talk to our principal who is the state authority and for whom we are acting’. It is incredible that the Minister and her officials continue to dodge any responsibility for this case”, said O’Gorman.

Despite assurances given last Friday that the matter would be addressed “over the next few days”, one week on, solicitors acting for Louise O’Keefe have not been contacted by either the State Claims Agency or Minister Hanafin. On Tuesday Senator Mary O’Rourke indicated in the Seanad that the State Claims Agency and the Department of Education would not be moving to collect their costs in the case and the Taoiseach said the matter would be dealt with in a “sensitive and measured way”.

Yesterday the State Claims Agency disputed Senator O’Rourke’s assessment saying that no decision had been made on the matter and asserted that the agency did not know what the basis was for Senator O’Rourke’s statement. A spokesperson for the Government was reported to have indicated on Tuesday that discussions were ongoing between the State Claims Agency and the solicitor acting for Louise O’Keefe, this is simply untrue. There have been no such discussions since the High Court decision of last Thursday, March 23rd.

“The Taoiseach may believe that the matter will be dealt with sensitively but based upon the way in which the matter was pursued through the courts and the continuing failure of the State to consider the impact of this action upon Louise, we cannot be so optimistic”, said O’Gorman. “Conflicting statements have been made by the State Claims Agency, The Department of Education and Science and the leader of the Seanad. It would appear that no-one is prepared to show leadership in this matter or to indicate exactly who is responsible. We find ourselves in the ridiculous situation where the Minister of Education is asserting one position in direct conflict with that of the state agency to whom the government delegated responsibility for such cases. It is shameful that this lack of clarity on the part of the State continues to cause enormous stress and anxiety to a woman who the state failed to adequately protect as a child whilst she attended a state funded school.”

 
 

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