First Cork Person to receive the Spirit of Mother Jones Award.
The Cork Mother Jones Committee is proud to announce that the 2019 Spirit of Mother Jones Award will be presented to Louise O’Keeffe.
Louise is the first Cork recipient of this International Award which is named after Cork born Mary Harris who became known around the world as Mother Jones.
Louise O’Keeffe describes herself as an ordinary West Cork woman and mother of two children. Yet this extraordinary woman fought a 15 year long battle to get civil redress for the sexual abuse she suffered at Dunderrow Primary School in Co Cork. Having failed to find justice in the Irish Courts she proceeded to take the Irish government to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
In 2014 the ECHR found in her favour.
According to James Nolan, spokesperson for the Cork Mother Jones Committee, which presents this annual award:
“Louise O’Keeffe is indeed an extraordinary woman, a fighter for justice who was determined to ensure justice for herself and the hundreds of people who suffered similar injustice in the schools of Ireland. In doing this she exposed the failure of the Irish authorities in spite of the Irish courts to ensure Irish children were protected from sexual abuse in Irish schools.
Louise spoke at the 2018 Spirit of Mother Jones summer school, her contribution was regarded by many of those attending as an inspirational talk in which she described in vivid detail her personal journey through the obstacles and the difficulties she faced in her long quest for justice.
Louise O’Keeffe is a worthy recipient of the 2019 Spirit of Mother Jones Award and the Cork Mother Jones Committee is extremely proud and happy that Louise is the first Cork person to receive this unique honour.
Mother Jones herself would have been proud of her fighting spirit.”James Nolan
In spite of the 2014 European Court Judgement, the Irish government moved to prevent victims from receiving compensation. After introducing a compensation scheme, they included a further obstacle which ensured victims could only receive compensation if they could prove their abuse occurred in the aftermath of a prior complaint made against their abuser.
This was virtually an impossible condition for young children to have acted on and every single applicant for the compensation scheme was rejected.
Earlier this July, more than 5 years after the European Court decision the independent assessor to review the scheme, retired High Court Judge Iarfhlaith O’Neill that this ridiculous obstacle imposed by the State represented “an inherent inversion of logic and was a fundamental unfairness to the applicants….it was inconsistent with the core reasoning of the judgement of the ECHR in the Louise O’Keeffe case.”
As a direct response to a public call from Louise O’Keeffe, the Taoiseach, Mr. Leo Varadkar apologised to victims in the Dail on Tuesday 9th July. Yet some 400 applicants continue to wait for justice.
The award is presented annually to people who act and work in the spirit of Mother Jones and Louise O’Keeffe now joins a worthy list of past recipients.
The 2019 Award will be presented to Ms O’Keeffe by James Nolan and the Cork Mother Jones Committee on Wednesday 31st July at 2pm approx following the official opening of the 2019 festival at the Maldron Hotel, in the Shandon Historic Quarter in Cork.
The Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Awards to date have been to;
2013, Margaret Aspinall and Sue Roberts. (Hillsborough Family Support Group)
2014, Gareth Peirce. Solicitor.
2015 Fr Peter McVerry. Campaigner for the homeless.
2016 Dave Hopper (RIP) General Secretary, Durham Miners’ Association.
2017 Ken Fleming. (International Transport Workers Federation.)
2018 Mary Manning (on behalf of the Dunnes Stores workers)
2019 Louise O’Keeffe.