A RAPIST father and violent mother were allowed to continue the vile abuse of their children for nine years after health authorities were first alerted.
The HSE said it was reviewing its handling of the case of a 50-year-old man who violently raped his four daughters over two decades.
The father was jailed yesterday for life for multiple rapes of four of his daughters between 1991 and 2009.
Judge Paul Carney said he was giving the man a life sentence because of the "credible threat" he made to one daughter that no matter how long a sentence he got, he would find her and kill her. He was already serving a 14-year sentence for more than 80 rapes of his eldest daughter, by whom he fathered two children.
The court heard how he tied his daughters to trees in order to rape them.
The 20-stone man used a hammer and hatchet to dish out beatings to the young children.
The man's partner (47) was herself jailed for eight years last July for appalling acts of cruelty to eight of her children between 2002 and 2009.
The Irish Independent has learned that a health board became aware of the abuse in 2000, after a statement of complaint was made to gardai by one of the couple's daughters.
At that stage the children had been suffering abuse for almost a decade. But it continued for almost another 10 years, until the man was finally arrested in June 2009.
Countless hours of dogged garda work went into supporting the young women to tell the truth of their childhood horrors.
The HSE finally got a warrant to execute emergency childcare orders and took the couple's youngest six children into care.
But the HSE was under pressure last night to explain how the abuse went on for so long, despite the health board being aware of concerns almost a decade ago.
In a statement last night, government ministers Alan Shatter and Frances Fitzgerald expressed concern about "the failure to report cases of child sexual abuse to the gardai". It added that these problems "extend to the wider community and are not restricted to clerical abuses".
Passing sentence on the father at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Castlebar yesterday, Mr Justice Paul Carney said the offences were at the top end of the scale.
The judge said he had carefully considered the evidence, including one of the daughters telling how her father had threatened her life.
He told her that no matter how long a sentence he got, he would find her and kill her. "This was a credible threat," Judge Carney said.
He was satisfied that a life term was not only warranted, but was the only mechanism available to give the victims the assurance they needed.
The accused man's dysfunctional background offered little or no mitigation, he said.
He also imposed a term of up to seven years in respect of charges of assaulting or ill-treating his daughters.
The Irish Independent has learned that in 2000, one of the couple's daughters had called the gardai at an eastern town to say that her father had raped her older sister.
A formal statement was made by the older girl, and she was also taken to the sexual assault unit of a Dublin hospital for a medical examination.
The local health board was alerted to the situation within the family.
The father was arrested and questioned, but denied raping his daughter.
Following intervention by the health board, the father apparently left the family caravan and some months later the two daughters withdrew their statements.
Some time afterwards, the family travelled to the west where the father rejoined them -- and further appalling rapes and acts of cruelty on the children were carried out.
One of the children, who was born with physical disabilities was found by a social worker in 2002 strapped into a filthy buggy. The child's face was bruised and she had breathing difficulties.
A number of the girls ran away when older, but were eventually found and brought back home and beaten. The beginning of the end of their nightmare only came in June, 2009 when one of the couple's sons went to a garda station and told of his concerns about what was happening to his sisters.
Yesterday the HSE confirmed that its dealings with the family was now being reviewed.