“We are determined to fight for it [Nóra] as a child with special needs,” said Meabh and Sebastien Quoirin when speaking to Jackie Fox on RTÉ in December 2019.
Three months earlier, they were on holiday when Sebastien discovered that her 15-year-old daughter, Nóra, was missing from the bedroom in the bungalow she shared with her siblings.
This was the first morning of their Malaysian holiday, after the family had traveled from London the previous day. After a nine-day search that involved 300 people, drones and helicopters, Nóra was found dead in the jungle behind her dwelling, bordering a river that had reportedly been previously searched.
That Nóra had special needs was significant, the Quoirins said. Additionally, they believed that the matter of her disability changed the way her disappearance and death was dealt with.
“The Malaysian authorities have not addressed the fact that she had special needs,” the couple said. “It was very frustrating and stressful for us. I think it’s true that people with special needs are still not that well understood there. There is still a lot of stigma and children with special needs are largely ignored and misunderstood.”
They believe this contributed to evidence being lost early on in the search.
We will continue our efforts in Malaysia to bring justice to our beloved Nóra
Of course, there were echoes of Madeleine McCann. A child on vacation disappears. There are suggestions that things could have been different if things had been handled differently and more efficiently.
But that’s where the similarity ends. Nóra’s story has an ending of sorts: her body was found and an inquest found she had died by accident (a verdict was later overturned in favor of an open verdict), after going into the jungle and eventually dying of starvation and stress .
But that’s not a complete answer to what happened to Nóra.
Her parents don’t think they know the whole truth, neither do Gerry and Kate McCann. And yet Madeleine is the lost child that everyone knows. It has often been said over the years that Madeleine McCann’s case remains of interest because she was cute and blonde and white. She came from a nice family. She spoke English. She had no special needs.
Last Wednesday, as the Quoirins’ defamation case against Facebook, now trading as Meta, and Tipperary-based attorney Anne Brennan was settled, the couple’s words about their “special needs child” came back to me.
The out-of-court settlement was reported on the news platforms, the details of which were not disclosed. Ms Brennan was not in court but reportedly agreed never to mention the Quoirins online again. Meta (Facebook)’s attorney read a statement on her behalf, expressing his sympathy for the Quoirin family over the “disturbing and offensive” allegations posted on their platform.
The Quoirins said this “marked the end of another chapter in the quest for truth… We will continue our efforts in Malaysia to bring justice to our beloved Nóra.”
That news of the settlement was reported and then it was gone. The attention she gave to her case didn’t feel appropriate to the tragedy of Nóra’s loss.
Nóra was one of three Quoirin children and was born with holosencephaly, a condition that occurs early in pregnancy and alters the formation of the front of the brain, affecting both physical and cognitive development. She attended a special school in London and, as her parents always pointed out, she could not have hiked into such a challenging jungle environment without help.
They were a family living a life of change, as all families with a special needs child must, but as their vacation in the Malaysian rainforest suggests, they didn’t let that stop them from living. This is a special kind of determination.
When you have a special needs child, one of your first and most enduring thoughts is that you cannot die. You know no one will ever love her or fight for her like you do.
Parents of special needs children will march for them, lobby for them, reluctantly parade them in public when it is needed, when there are no services or places in school or a place to live. It’s a wild love, and it’s rooted in a painful awareness that other people often need to be made to take care of them.
That is the case in large measure when your child is lost in the tragic manner of Nóra Quoirin.
It’s there in her parents’ comments about feeling misunderstood by those who have been searching for her, in what they see as a failure to understand her abilities and disability.
She is gone from them but, as they say, always in their hearts and minds and part of their family. That is probably why they have gone to court, while millions of others who have been victims of online hate have not. That is why they are continuing the efforts in Malaysia. The fight for a child with special needs never ends.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/fighting-for-nora-quoirin-the-love-for-a-child-with-special-needs-is-fierce-and-the-fight-for-them-never-ends-41862526.html Fight for Nóra Quoirin: The love for a child with special needs is unrelenting and the fight for her never ends