He joined the Taoiseach in apologising for the treatment of Ms O’Keeffe, whose legal fight took 15 years, and he put the apology on the record of the House.
He told Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, who called for an apology for every school victim of abuse, that the judgment had “very profound implications for the patronage system of schools and for the relationship now between the State and patrons of schools”.
He said: “I admire Louise O’Keeffe and I join with the Taoiseach in apologising to her for what happened in that school and for the horrendous experience she had to go through.”
The European Court of Human Rights judgment overturned a Supreme Court ruling that the State was not responsible for the sexual abuse she suffered as a national school student in Cork.
Ms McDonald had welcomed the Taoiseach’s apology to Ms O’Keeffe, which he made at the formal launch of the Child and Family Agency.
But he said, “given the enormity of the wrong done to this woman and to others, those words of apology should have been uttered in this chamber”.
Ms McDonald said she understood that 135 other adults brought similar cases but, after the Supreme Court judgment in 2008, the other litigants “received threatening letters telling them they would face legal costs unless they dropped their cases”.
She said Mr Gilmore’s Government argued the case against Ms O’Keeffe just a year ago, even though he was referring to the issue of child abuse as a “historical issue”.
She said there was an established pattern that the State and Government “close ranks and try to shut down any call for justice from people like Louise O’Keeffe”.
Mr Gilmore said however, that the Supreme Court handed down a judgment, before this Government came into office and that was the legal position at the time, he said.
They had a system of schools operating under patronage and the Supreme Court judgment accepted that system and therefore that ultimate liability did not rest with the State, he added.