Education Religion

Louise O’Keeffe Case Could Redefine State’s Role in Primary Schools

Most people were rightly appalled by the way the State’s legal team treated Louise O’Keeffe who was abused by a primary school principal at the age of 8.  They placed every possible obstacle and threat in her way as she sought to prove that the State was negligent in failing to prevent the sexual abuse inflicted on her at school.  They fought the case all the way to the Supreme court, and when they won there, they immediately issued intimidating letters to over 130 other litigants, threatening them with dire financial consequences unless they dropped their cases.

However, they didn’t reckon on the courage and determination of Louise O’Keeffe. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg agreed with her that since the Irish State pays the wages and pensions of teachers, sets the curriculum and inspects the schools, it is responsible for protecting the children from abuse.

This is all well and good, but money doesn’t explain the intensity of the State’s resistance to the case.  After all, this is the same State that subvented the religious orders to the tune of €1.4 billion in the Residential Institutions Redress Boards.  It has to be something else, and once you think about it, the answer is obvious.  This judgement by the ECHR destroys the fiction that the primary schools are owned and operated by the religious denominations and instead it places the government firmly in control – not something the government welcomes.  This of course, is blindingly obvious, since the majority of priests and bishops have no role or skill in education and have no place on the boards of management of our schools.

This ECHR decision has no downside.  It obliges the State to protect children from predatory adults in schools, but it also explicitly confirms that the State is the responsible entity, reinforcing, ironically, the non-denominational nature of our primary schools, as first conceived in the 1820s.  (Interestingly, and contrary to what most people believe, there is no such thing in Irish law as a Catholic primary school or a Church of Ireland school for that matter).

Therefore, the ECHR decision could potentially force the State to take direct control of all publicly-funded primary schools and eject the bishops from their antiquated status of patron.  This is why the government’s lawyers put up such a savage battle to silence and crush Louise O’Keeffe.  It’s also why we’re unlikely to hear a huge cheer from the religious pressure groups who shout so much about protecting the rights of children.

15 replies on “Louise O’Keeffe Case Could Redefine State’s Role in Primary Schools”

The likes of Ahern,Woods,Noonan and their ilk have much to answer for. When I heard of Noonan being voted Europe’s best Finance Minister I was overcome with a violent urge to vomit. I wonder what the McCole family thinks of this gurrier.

What powers of enforcement can ECHR impose? Are the findings really binding? Above does not mean that the Failed Free State will comply with Strasbourg. It has ignored the Aarhus Convention in the way Uisce Eireann was established. The Failed State seems to treat dictats from Europe a la carte .

So what piece of public servant shit instructed the State legal team to take this case to the end, and what parasitic barrister collects the cheque on this one?.

From the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform web site

Mission Statement
To serve the country, its people and the Government by delivering
well-managed and well-targeted public spending, delivered through
modernised, effective and accountable public services.
p.s unless your name is Bridget McCole or Louise O’Keeffe, or any other citizen betrayed and abandoned by the State

From the Irish Independent 10 FEBRUARY 1998
“MANY who learn for the first time this morning that the estate of the tragic Hepatitis C victim Mrs Bridget McCole will be paid compensation of £175,000, while her legal team and lawyers for the Blood Transfusion Service Board together will receive fees totalling £1.35m from the State, will no doubt be shocked and angered”

Mrs McCole’s legal team are to to be paid £835,175 and the BTSB lawyers a healthy £519,168

We truly live in a great little country………… for some

The ECHR decision truly exposes the State apparatus of Ireland to be in a appallingly scandalous state the upshot of which would lead one to the conclusion that the citizens of Ireland are not only not protected by the State but actually abused by it. I heard a speaker on the Vincent Browne show the other night saying that unlike the European Court of Justice the findings of the ECHR are not binding on the State. If that is true don’t expect any change soon.

The government doesn’t want to assume responsibly and prefers to let the patron system continue, while letting VECs (now with a new name), Educate Together and Gaelscoileanna initiatives get a small slice of the action, gradually. Why do Irish governments not want to be responsible? Is it to do with financial liability in a compo culture? Is it mental and administrative laziness? To what extent do PTAs guide policy in schools anyway, and what is the general level of parental involvement in the PTAs around the country? What percentage of parents want an input into general school policy? What is civil society in Ireland doing about schools?

Hi Bock, I’d love to “buy you a pint” but I NEVER pay for anything online: I’m old-fashioned like that. Love your blog, but it’ll take more that one’s indignation to change “Official Ireland” – speaking from personal experience here, as an Irish mother.

This is all well and good, but money doesn’t explain the intensity of the State’s resistance to the case….
It has to be something else, and once you think about it, the answer is obvious. This judgement by the ECHR destroys the fiction that the primary schools are owned and operated by the religious denominations and instead it places the government firmly in control – not something the government welcomes.

I don’t know Bock. Sometimes, I just get a feeling about things like this.

I have no evidence, no compilations of cases to point to, and nothing has explicitly pointed me towards the conclusion; but at times like these I come to the opinion that the upper echelons of the State, Courts, etc, etc are actually filled with people who either are/were abusers, or who have or are covering up the actions of such.

I mean, if I said the upper echelons were full of crooks, there would be no disagreement. If I said they were full of fraudsters, there would be much nodding. If I said many of the men running the country have probably mis-treated women it would be fairly believable.

So sometimes I wonder about what’s really behind the cover-ups and kid-gloves the State engages in when it comes to dealing with child abusers. In the absence of any rational narrative for the frankly, evil state actions like the ones Louise O’Keeffe has faced, my mind struggles to understand the why these things are still happening. An end to State cover-ups would be preferable, but some kind of explanation for them would come in a close second.

Is it not a fair observation that the state itself remains slightly in thrall to The church, to say the least? That the situation pertaining to the matter of state liability could possibly be due to the state government itself, rather than the schools, remaining partly owned by denominational church?? As a federal state, we have a bit to go in this regard, to say the least….
Congratulations to Louise O’Keefe. Her award (glad to hear it is binding) stands in heroic contrast to the ignominious John Waters/Ionian debacle of Pantigate, and we should as a state be happy to honour claims meted out to such litigants until our state is finally capable of sending those judgments by referral back to Rome, with legal authorization from the european court to collect from there..(seriously, who in government would ask?)….for now, we must be content to pay for our victories in this regard. The longer the state pays, the sooner it will consider applying to refer the judgments to Rome…….That is at least a start. (yeah, that’ll be the day we grow up as a state……!)

European Court of Human Rights: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”


Louise O’Keeffe versus Ireland ECHR 027 (2014), decided on 28.01.2014.

THE ACTUAL JUDGEMENT (28.01.2014) @ (written and spoken by the judges of the the European Court of Human Rights themselves – 82 pages in toto in English)

Everything else on the internet – all other references/links to the case – are only short summaries or extracts of the case or the final judgement pertaining thereto in Strasbourg.

Europäischer Gerichtshof für Menschenrechte: „Niemand darf der Folter oder unmenschlicher oder erniedrigender Strafe oder Behandlung unterworfen werden.“


Louise O’Keeffe gegen Irland EuGMR 027 (2014), entschieden am 28.01.2014.

DAS EIGENTLICHE URTEIL (28.01.2014) @ (von den Richtern des Europäischen Gerichtshofs für Menschenrechte selbst verfasst und gesprochen – insgesamt 82 Seiten in Englisch)

Alles andere im Internet – sonstige Hinweise/Links zu diesem Fall – sind nur kurze Zusammenfassungen oder Auszüge des Falls oder des diesbezüglichen Urteils in Straßburg.

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