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In an interview in the Irish Times yesterday, Helen O'Donoghue, the eldest sister, disclosed that another sister had reported the rape and sexual abuse 23 years ago to a social worker. She also accused various state agencies of witnessing the neglect but staying silent (stock photo)

In an interview in the Irish Times yesterday, Helen O'Donoghue, the eldest sister, disclosed that another sister had reported the rape and sexual abuse 23 years ago to a social worker. She also accused various state agencies of witnessing the neglect but staying silent (stock photo)

PA Archive/Press Association Images

In an interview in the Irish Times yesterday, Helen O'Donoghue, the eldest sister, disclosed that another sister had reported the rape and sexual abuse 23 years ago to a social worker. She also accused various state agencies of witnessing the neglect but staying silent (stock photo)

The child protection agency has launched a search for records relating to the sexual abuse of eight woman who are demanding a public inquiry into why state agencies did not intervene in their case.

The eight women - seven sisters and their aunt, who are members of the Traveller community - delivered a harrowing statement outside the Criminal Court of Justice last Monday after James O'Reilly of Thurles was jailed for 20 years for rape and sexual assault.

O'Reilly sexually abused his daughters and their aunt over 23 years, as well as neglecting them, assaulting them and starving them. In an interview in the Irish Times yesterday, Helen O'Donoghue, the eldest sister, disclosed that another sister had reported the rape and sexual abuse 23 years ago to a social worker. She also accused various state agencies of witnessing the neglect but staying silent.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said this weekend she has asked Tusla, the child and family agency, for "clarity" on the case. A statement said she was "deeply shocked" by the details and was struck by the "courage and openness of the women involved in bringing their abuser to justice".

"The extent and nature of the involvement of child welfare and protection services in this case is not yet clear and the minister has asked for clarity on this. She notes that Tusla is searching and retrieving files relating to the case from its predecessor organisations," the statement said.

Minister for Justice Charles Flanagan said he commended the "tremendous strength of these brave women".

"Speaking out against a perpetrator of sexual violence can be difficult, particularly where these criminal acts have occurred in the home," he said.

Tusla is looking for historical records of any interaction that may have taken place with the family. The agency said it will consider what review might be required after considering the material.

"We empathise with each of the victims in this distressing case and the impact that this very traumatic experience has had on their lives," a statement said.

Sunday Independent