Mother who poured Fairy Liquid into child's mouth jailed for litany of cruelty
A mother who neglected seven of her children, keeping them in a "atmosphere of fear", has been jailed for four years at Galway Circuit Criminal Court.
The 39-year-old mother was found guilty of a litany of charges including beating her children, driving a car at her two young sons, pushing one down the stairs, holding her daughter's head under water and pouring washing-up liquid into the mouths of three children.
The 39-year-old mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, and who was found guilty of 29 counts of cruelty and neglect of her children, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years with the final six months suspended.
Judge Karen O'Connor said mitigating factors in the case had been minimal with no guilty plea, which would have helped the children, and no remorse shown by the defendant.
She said there was "general neglect", "absence from home" and "failure to look after the most basic needs of the children", adding there was "an atmosphere of fear" with the children "frightened, anxious and helpless as they observed their siblings being beaten."
"The cumulative affect of cruelty was more damaging than the specific assaults," she added.
She said one of most disturbing aspects of the case was when the mother had tried to attribute blame to her eldest daughter.
Judge O'Connor commended neighbours for the manner in which they tried to look out for the children, feeding and clothing them and alerting social services in 2009.
"It is a matter of concern to the court that these young victims appear to have remained under the radar from the authorities," she added.
The woman had denied all charges of cruelty and neglect. She admitted pouring Fairy washing-up liquid into the mouths of three of her children but told the court she "didn't see anything wrong" with her actions. She also accepted that she smacked her children, hit them with a belt and wooden spoon and left her two young daughters in the care of an alcoholic while she went to a pub.
Two hours later the children were found by gardaí with the man, who was so drunk he could not care for them. However, she denied this was abusive or neglectful behaviour.
Evidence was heard of heavy drinking in the family homes, often resulting in violence. The woman's older daughter gave evidence of her mother trying to drown her in the kitchen sink.
One young boy told the court how his mother had laughed after pushing him down the stairs. On another occasion, she had driven a car at her two young sons after they spilled ice cream, causing them to scramble out of the way to avoid being hit.
The abuse came to light when the children were taken into care in May 2011, after social workers made an unannounced visit to the home in the west of Ireland. They found the children left in "a chaotic scene" in the care of two intoxicated men while the mother was away on a short break.
Victim impact statements were read from some of the children, who told of their ongoing anxiety, feelings of sadness and a lack of self-worth. The children also told of their sadness that they no longer saw their siblings often.
A former partner of the woman, who pleaded guilty to three charges of abuse and two of neglect, was given a two-year suspended sentence.
Judge O'Connor pointed to his guilty pleas and obvious remorse. She said he was attempting to rehabilitate and develop a relationship with his children.