Probe as children accuse parents of incest
GARDAI last night confirmed they were investigating horrific allegations of serious sexual abuse in a family in the west of Ireland.
The investigation involves a family with a large number of children -- five of whom are understood to have made statements claiming their parents committed incest.
The abuse allegations first emerged at the beginning of the decade, when one of the children made claims while in foster care.
The Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to bring charges following an initial two-year investigation, even though gardai recommended serious charges against both parents.
However, the case is now being re-examined following the successful prosecution of a Roscommon mother of six for incest earlier this year.
The two cases are not linked, with the current investigation focussing on abuse which is alleged to have taken place in a different county.
A garda spokesman said: "Gardai can confirm that an investigation is being carried out into allegation of serious sexual assault involving a family in the west of Ireland."
The couple's two eldest children, who are now in their mid-to-late 20s, are understood to have denied being abused by their parents.
However, the next five children are understood to have claimed that they and a number of their younger siblings, who were only infants at the time, were subjected to a shocking litany of abuse in the family home.
It is understood there were also allegations that some of the children were forced by the parents to have sex with each other. As well as violent sexual abuse, allegations of extreme neglect were also made.
Children were left to go hungry and sometimes had to steal or hide food, it was claimed.
The children involved are now aged between 10 and their early 20s. All were taken out of the family home and placed in care.
The mother in the family has herself alleged she was sexually abused by a priest when she was young. She has also had documented difficulties with alcohol abuse.
The family first came to the attention of health authorities in the mid-1990s when they lived in a different town.
They came under the supervision of the local health board after neighbours made complaints about the physical well-being of the children.
However, it was not until the family moved to the west of Ireland that the sexual abuse allegations came out.
Sources said comments made by one of the children to a foster parent in late 2000 triggered the initial garda probe.
Evidence gathered in the case, including medical examinations of the children, was examined by an independent international expert.
Last night Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) described cases of sexual abuse within a family as being among the hardest to investigate and prosecute, because of the primacy of the family in the Constitution.
RCNI executive director Fiona Neary said parents can still hold psychological control over their children, even if abuse has occurred.
She said the DPP should work more closely with gardai on such cases, using specially trained prosecutors, similar to the system used in the UK.
Ms Neary added: "Gardai also need to be getting specific guidelines from the DPP on what would best inform a book of evidence in a child sexual abuse case."