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.
James O’Reilly, 75, subjected the young girls to “horrific” sexual abuse, as well as physical beatings, starvation and degradation, the Central Criminal Court, Dublin, heard on Monday morning.
During the abuse, which took place between 1977 and 2000, O’Reilly raped one daughter, which 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.
O’Reilly of Killeens, Ballynonty, Thurles, Co Tipperary in Ireland, 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.
Caroline Biggs SC, prosecuting, told the court that all seven daughters wished to waive their anonymity, allowed for the naming of their abuser.
They were all pictured celebrating outside the court waving their arms up in the air when O’Reilly’s sentence was heard.
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.
He commended the courage of the victims and noted the stoicism as well as the occasional flashes of good humour shown by them throughout the lengthy trial.
He said he was taking into consideration O’Reilly’s abuse of his dominant position, the duration of the offending and the incalculable pain and harm caused to the victims.
“It’s not clear any of them will ever be free of the adverse effects.”
O’Reilly was aged around 34 when he raped the first victim, his 13-year-old younger sister. He abused her for the next three years, attacking her in a van.
He first abused the second victim, his daughter, when her mother was in hospital having suffered a miscarriage. His daughter was aged between four and six.
In 1977, she was aged around eight when he drove her in his van to a bog and raped her. He told her she would be put into foster care if she told anyone.
One victim testified that from the age of ten she was raped in the back of van if it was raining and outside the van in a field if it wasn’t.
The trial heard that the family lived at a place in Dublin at one point, living in an old-fashioned horse drawn wagon and later in a more modern trailer.
O’Reilly raped another daughter when her mother was in hospital giving birth to another child.
This baby boy died in 1983 and while his partner was grieving, O’Reilly took one girl out and raped her in the pony shed.
O’Reilly moved the children around the country and in the late 80s they were living around at a location in the south where he continued to abuse them.
One victim, who was raped until she was aged 20, said she couldn’t tell her husband because “saying you are being raped [as a] Traveller is like being thrown to the side of the road, you’d have to go back to the bog”.
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 ten in 1981 when her father first began molesting her. A year later he raped her in the back of the van.
She testified that during this time he raped her “hundreds, thousands of times.”
A witness at the trial recalled how in 1986 she met this victim in the bog and “she was shaking and crying”.
She said she still gets knots in her stomach remembering how the victim told her her father was abusing her.
Another victim recalled having to attend hospital with a head injury from beatings. She was aged ten when her father began raping her and he would rape her up to three times a week for the next six years.
Justice Hunt said a life sentence was the appropriate starting point based on the horrific facts.
He said the mitigating factors presented carried little weight and that the main factor submitted in mitigation was O’Reilly’s age.
He noted that O’Reilly was in robust good health when he was interviewed four years ago but there was evidence his health has deteriorated since.
He said the court was leaving it the executive to engage in any future intervention of the custodial sentence because of infirmity.
He said the difference between a life sentence and a lengthy but finite sentence may be academic given O’Reilly’s age.
He imposed a range of sentences from two years to twenty years.
A number of victims sobbed during the sentence hearing and as sentence was passed.
Garnet Orange SC, defending, submitted that his client has no previous convictions and has never been on garda radar.
Mr Orange asked the court to have regard for an elderly man facing a lengthy sentence who also has hearing difficulties.