Child sex abuse victim says Ireland did not protect her

Children who suffered sexual abuse in Ireland's Catholic schools during the 1970s failed to receive sufficient protection from the state, one of the victims told the European Court of Human Rights on Wednesday.

Louise O'Keeffe, 46, is suing the Irish state after suffering repeated abuse by a former principal of the Dunderrow primary school in Cork, southwestern Ireland, in 1973, when she was eight.

O'Keeffe argues that the Irish state should take the blame for the abuse since it failed to implement reporting measures to prevent and stop the crimes.

The principal, who also taught at the school, was jailed in 1998 after he faced a total of 386 abuse charges involving 21 of his former students. He pleaded guilty to 21 sample charges.

The court said in a statement ahead of Wednesday's hearing that it appeared that several complaints lodged against the principal reached neither the police nor Ireland's department of education until after the man retired in 1995.

Ireland has denied responsibility in the case, saying the priest who managed the school never reported the crimes.

"This case is about human rights in pure form: a child’s right to have the state protection from sexual abuse by an adult," said one of O'Keeffe's lawyers, David Holland.

Another lawyer Ernest Cantillon told AFP after the hearing that "with the simple decision of putting a reporting action in place, just that procedure, many children would have been safe".

The Strasbourg court will deliver its verdict at a later date.

Ireland's Supreme Court has previously ruled that the state cannot be held responsible since it did not manage the school.

O'Keeffe began her legal action 15 years ago. If she is successful, it could trigger a raft of claims from people denied compensation because abuse occurred in church-run schools.

Ireland has in recent years been stunned by a series of hard-hitting investigations that have lifted the lid on decades of child abuse suffered at the hands of religious members that stretches back to the foundation of the state in 1922.