A MOTHER of seven who deprived her own children of a childhood through nine years of neglect has walked free from court.
Handing down a suspended four-year jail term to the 38-year-old woman, the judge said she had committed an "unnatural crime" of neglecting her own children.
Detailing the background to the case, Judge Carroll Moran told Ennis Circuit Court that the woman "had deprived her children of a childhood which will have long-lasting consequences for them".
In the witness box, the woman's eldest child – who is now 17 – described her mother as "vermin" and that she was "cruel and evil".
The girl, when she was eight, was forced to act as a surrogate mother to her newborn sister after the baby was abandoned by their mother.
Judge Moran said: "There was nothing to change nappies, to make bottles, to help the baby sleep – no explanation was given to the other child as to what she should do."
The woman pleaded guilty to the neglect and ill-treatment of the five girls and two boys at different times over a nine-year period from March 2001 to July 2010.
The children are today aged between four and 17.
In sentencing, Judge Moran described how the woman had abandoned her children while spending long periods in a public house with her now former partner and father of six of the seven children, indulging themselves in bouts of alcoholic behaviour.
"As a result of this drinking, there was insufficient food in the house and sometimes no food at all. The children were left for long periods, alone and without food," he said.
Judge Moran said that when the eldest girl took money from her mother's jeans, "her mother hit her with a shoe, a sweeping brush and a poker all over the head. Although she suffered multiple bruising, the child was too afraid to go to the doctor".
All of the children are currently in care and Judge Moran said that when the four youngest were placed in foster care "their foster mother said that the four were very frightened, dirty, malnourished children. They did not know how to eat at the table, didn't know how to use cutlery and were not toilet trained".
Opting not to jail the woman, Judge Moran said: "It seems to me because of her attempts to address her alcohol problem and inadequacies as a parent, and her plea of guilty, in these exceptional circumstances, that it would not be right to impose an immediate custodial sentence."
As part of the suspended sentence, the woman has agreed to abstain from alcohol and co-operate with the Probation Service and Health Service Executive.
The woman's former partner has also pleaded guilty to the neglect of the seven children and is to be sentenced at a later date.