‘How could this happen again?' asks O'Keeffe

May 15th, 2017 1:02 PM

By Southern Star Team

Leo Hickey, who was sentenced to jail for the abuse. (Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision)

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A WEST Cork woman, abused by schoolteacher Leo Hickey at Dunderrow National School over 40 years ago, has welcomed the fact that her abuser has finally been placed on the Sex Offenders Register after he was convicted of abusing a boy at a school in Ballincolling in the 1990s.

But Louise O’Keeffe has called on the Department of Education to hold a public inquiry into how Hickey, 77, could be allowed abuse nine-year-old Daniel Kelleher in Scoil Eoin in Ballincollig – over 15 years after he left Dunderrow because of his abuse of young girls.

Ms O’Keeffe said there were serious questions to be asked about how Hickey could resign as principal in Dunderrow amid complaints of abuse, and start teaching immediately in another school within days, without anyone querying what was happening.

She was speaking after Hickey was this week sentenced to three years in jail with two years suspended, after he was convicted unanimously by a jury on eight counts of abusing Mr Kelleher  at Scoil Eoin between November 1991 and June 1992.

Hickey, from Realt na Mara, Skevanish, Innishannon, had previously been jailed for three years in 1998 when he pleaded guilty to 21 sample counts from 387 charges of abusing 21 young girls, including Ms O’Keeffe, at Dunderrow National School between 1964 and 1973.

During his sentencing hearing for the Dunderrow abuse, defence lawyers made the case in mitigation that Hickey, realising that he was attracted to little girls, removed himself from Dunderrow and applied to work in a boy schools as he was not attracted to young boys.

But Ms O’Keeffe, who successfully sued Ireland at the European Court of Human Rights over the State’s failure to protect her from abuse by Hickey, said that the State had also clearly failed Daniel Kelleher by allowing Hickey to also abuse him after he abused her.

Mr Hickey had denied eight counts of sexually assaulting Daniel Kelleher while teaching at Scoil Eoin Boys National School in Ballincollig on dates between November 1991 and June 1992.

But in February, a jury of five men and seven women at Cork Circuit Criminal Court unanimously convicted Hickey and this week, Judge Sean Ó Donnabháin sentenced him to three years in jail, with the final two suspended.

Det Garda Donal O’Connell of Ballincollig Garda Station told the court that the abuse began when Mr Kelleher was nine and Hickey was his fourth class teacher. It consisted of him touching the boy’s private parts and getting the boy to touch his.

During the trial, Mr Kelleher told how Hickey used to send him out with notes for other teachers and then follow him out and make him go into the toilet where he would abuse him.

Mr Kelleher told the court in his Victim Impact Statement how Hickey’s abuse had ruined his childhood with devastating impacts that continued into adulthood when he rebelled against all authority figures and began to abuse drugs, until he finally told his mother.

 Defence barrister John Devlin BL said his client was the primary carer for his elderly wife and he asked the judge to be as lenient as possible.

Judge Ó Donnabháin said that Hickey’s abuse of Mr Kelleher was ‘disgraceful’ as it involved ‘a substantial breach of trust.’ 

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