A woman was jailed for eight years yesterday, following a litany of horrific physical and psychological abuse against her eight children over almost a decade in the Republic of Ireland.
Last night, an independent investigation was launched into how the abuse had continued for so long, given that the family had previously come to the attention of social workers.
In Galway Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Raymond Groarke described the plight of the six daughters and two sons as a "story of a huge human tragedy beyond description".
One of the woman's daughters said: "She wasn't a mother to me, she was an evil bitch."
The investigation will examine what concerns, if any, were raised by social workers when the HSE came into contact with the family in 2000. It will also investigate what steps were taken to protect the children.
The 47-year-old woman yesterday pleaded guilty to eight offences of assault and neglect of her eight children over a seven-year period from May 2002 to June 2009.
The court listened in stunned silence as the offences committed by the mother -- a Traveller -- on her children, from their childhood years into their adult lives, were detailed.
The court heard the eldest daughter was beaten constantly by the mother and often had to go without clothes.
She was forced to beg for money, which her mother then used for alcohol and cigarettes. The daughter told gardai how the mother had sex in front of her children.
In her victim-impact statement, the daughter said that when she grew up and had her own family, the mother would often take away her dole, leaving her with barely enough to feed her own children.
"I think about killing myself and only for my kids, I would have done it," she said.
The woman recalled how her mother threw weapons at her when she was angry.
At the age of 13, she was knocked unconscious and hospitalised when hit with a bottle. It was the only time she was brought to hospital.
The mother would often abandon her children for up to a week, leaving them without food or clothes.
The court heard that not a day went by when one daughter or other was not beaten. On one occasion, the mother looked on when a knife was stuck into the second daughter's arm.
Another time, vice grips were locked on to her ear, nose and lips and left there for an hour while she screamed for help.
In a separate incident, a child was tied to a horse and both were whipped by the mother so that the horse would gallop away. During the incident, the horse fell on top of the girl.
The court heard that one son was beaten severely so the mother could pretend "he was handicapped and claim money for them".
A daughter told in her victim-impact statement that she was frightened her mother would get back out of prison.
Det Garda Kieran McNamara told the court that the woman made her children's lives "a living hell".
While the HSE had been in contact with the family since 2000, Judge Groarke said he found it incredible that such a series of inactions could go on for such a long period of time with little or no outside intervention.
"These children were prisoners and slaves in their own homes," he said.
Commenting that the woman showed no remorse and had imposed a life sentence on her children, he imposed a 24-year jail term with 16 years suspended. The sentence was backdated to 2009.
Last night the HSE declined to comment on the case.
However, a statement confirmed that an investigation into its involvement with the family was being carried out.
"This case has been referred to the National Review Panel, led by independent chair Helen Buckley, in keeping with the HIQA Guidance," it said.
"The review group is currently assessing the HSE's involvement with the family."
Meanwhile, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said people should not be shocked that such abuse was still happening.
Spokesperson Lloyd Byrne said: "Unfortunately, a lot of abuse happens within the family home and it's very hard to see what goes on in the home."
Source Irish Independent