Jerry O’Keeffe: Retired Irish soldier handed 10-year jail sentence for raping and abusing his daughters

Jerry O’Keeffe: Retired Irish soldier handed 10-year jail sentence for raping and abusing his daughters

A FORMER Irish soldier who raped his oldest daughter and regularly abused his other daughter has been jailed for 10 years.

Jerry O’Keeffe, 69, pleaded guilty to three charges of rape, five of indecent assault and one of sexual assault out of a total of 78 original counts.

The sexual abuse began in January 1980 when his daughters Amy and Melissa were pre-adolescent children.

The last of the horrific abuse occurred in March 1987.

Both daughters waived their right to anonymity at the Central Criminal Court, which heard how one of them reported the abuse to Gardaí when she was 16 – before her parents put her under pressure to withdraw her statement.

The abuse was then reported to the Southern Health Board in 1999, after both sisters went to the Rape Crisis Centre.

However, no further action was taken after O'Keeffe agreed with an order to move out of the family home.

His oldest daughter Amy told reporters after his sentencing that she believes the HSE “could have done more” to help her in 1999 after she reported to the Rape Crisis Centre.

Cork native O’Keeffe remained in the army until 2004, a decade before the sisters again reported his sexual abuse to Gardaí three years ago.

Justice Patrick McCarthy said that O’Keeffe’s crimes brought about the “destruction” of his daughters’ childhoods.

“It is hard to find words to describe each new outrage inflicted on these children,” he said.

Amy Barrett told the judge she was just seven-years-old when the abuse began in 1980.

She said that her father would ask her to sit on his lap before sexually abusing her and taking her to his bedroom to rape her.

She added that she tried to get him to stop but was limited in what she could do due to her age.

Ms Barrett was raped on a regular basis until she was 12-years-old in 1985.

Justice McCarthy was then told how, after the abuse stopped against Amy, Mr O’Keeffe began indecently assaulting youngest daughter Melissa when she was just 11.

The abuse lasted for six years and would usually happen at night, when O’Keeffe returned from the pub.

Speaking after their father was sentenced to 10 years in prison, Amy Barrett and Melissa O’Keeffe said they it was “never about the sentence” for them.

“It puts out the message that the abuse and rape of a child is never right,” Ms Barrett said.

“And it doesn’t matter how long it takes a victim to come forward – it’s never too late.

“We’re happy, but we’re sad at the same time because he’s still our dad.

“It’s almost like we’re going to be in mourning for him now. My plan is to put it all behind me and get on with the rest of my life.”

She added: “It will never leave you, but you just do the best you can.”