'Monster' jailed for 20 years for repeated rape of daughters and sister

Daughters of sick James O’Reilly embrace outside court after he was jailed for 20 years. Photo: Collins

Declan Brennan

A man has been jailed for 20 years for the repeated rape and sexual abuse of his younger sister and seven daughters over a 23-year period.

From 1977 to 2000, James O'Reilly (75) subjected the young girls to "horrific" sexual abuse, as well as physical beatings, starvation and degradation, the Central Criminal Court heard yesterday.

O'Reilly, of Killeens, Ballynonty, Thurles, Co Tipperary, pleaded not guilty to 81 counts of rape and sexual abuse.

Last December, after a five-week trial, a jury convicted him of 58 counts of rape and nine counts of sexual assault.

O'Reilly's rape of one daughter caused her to become pregnant in late 1988.

He continued to rape her during the pregnancy.

At the time, O'Reilly told his daughter to allege she had been raped by another man.

He continued abusing her and only stopped when she threatened him with a knife.

Later, DNA tests confirmed he was the father, a factor which was used to secure his conviction.

One victim said she was starved and forced to beg for food outside, while another said she did not know what a Christmas present was until she was an adult.

Caroline Biggs SC, prosecuting, said the victims wished to waive their anonymity, allowing for the naming of their abuser.

Outside the court, O'Reilly's victims embraced and cheered as they celebrated what one called "the end of a nightmare" at the hands of a man they called "the monster" and "a beast".

"He showed no remorse. He showed nothing. He just showed the true beast that he really is," one victim said.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt described O'Reilly's actions as horrific and noted the escalating and repetitive nature of the offending.

He noted that O'Reilly continues to deny any wrongdoing and there was no evidence of remorse or regret on his part for his crimes.

The judge commended the courage of the victims, and added: "It's not clear any of them will ever be free of the adverse effects."

In her victim impact statement, Kathleen O'Driscoll said she could remember her father abusing her from her earliest childhood memories. She said she prayed each night that she would not wake up.

Ms O'Driscoll said her father threatened that if she told anyone about the abuse he would cut her throat and the throat of any person she told. She said she has put up with being raped, starved and beaten all her life.

Margaret Hutchinson was aged 10 in 1981 when her father first began molesting her. A year later he raped her in the back of a van.

She testified that during this time he raped her "hundreds, thousands of times".

In her victim impact statement, which she read out in court, Philomena Connors said she sometimes questions why her mother had her and wishes she had never been born.

She said she always had emptiness in her heart and she still has to this day.


Mr Justice Hunt said a life sentence was the appropriate starting point based on the horrific facts.

He imposed a range of sentences from two years to 20 years. A number of victims sobbed during the hearing and as sentence was passed.

Speaking outside court, one victim said: "It took me a long time to get it out, but I'm glad it's out. I'm going to beat this, and hold my head up high.

"It's being hidden too long in the Travelling community and it won't be hidden no more. Come forward and be heard. Don't be afraid, don't be ashamed.

"I was robbed of my life, but I'm proud of my sisters today," she added.