A Tipperary man who began sexually abusing his niece while she was in her First Holy Communion dress almost three decades ago has been jailed for 10 years for rape and indecent assault.
The Central Criminal Court heard the now 67-year-old man took his niece into a room after she had been twirling and admiring her dress and put his hand on her private area outside her underwear.
The man continued to touch the girl outside her underwear during the summer of 1986 when she was in his company with her sister.
The next summer he began touching her inside her underwear and in 1988 the abuse escalated to rape.
The man, who cannot be named to protect his victim's identity, had pleaded not guilty to eight counts of indecently assaulting and three counts of raping the girl between 1986 and 1988.
He was convicted on all 11 counts by a jury after his trial. He has no previous convictions.
Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan imposed a 10-year sentence on the rape counts and sentences of five and six years on the indecent assault. All sentences are to run concurrently.
A local garda told Mary Rose Gearty SC, prosecuting, that on one occasion the man called to the victim's house, rubbed her private area and kissed her on the mouth while her parents were out.
The then nine-year-old girl told her mother about the kiss, but the mother replied: “He's your uncle and he loves you.”
The girl didn't alert her parents to any of the abuse after that as she thought it was normal.
The victim recalled bleeding and feeling pain “like fire” after the first time her uncle raped her three times in her family sitting room in 1988.
On the next occasion she began crying as he raped her and she later told her mother she was sore.
Her mother told her to apply cream as the girl didn't explain why she felt pain.
The victim told gardaí that the final time her uncle raped her would have been shortly after the second, as she had not recovered from the pain.
This time she began screaming during the rape and he stopped quickly, before taking her home.
Reading from her victim impact statement the woman, now in her 30s, told the court that the impact of the abuse had been “far-reaching and devastating”.
She described feeling “helpless, weak and ashamed” and said there had been times where she'd had to withdraw from family and friends.
She said she has struggled to trust people, has suffered flashbacks of the abuse and that the memories at one point “consumed” her.
The woman said that she knows she did the right things despite the the trial being “harrowing” for her.
Paul Greene SC, defending, submitted to Ms Justice Heneghan that his client was a hard-working family man.
He asked the judge to consider his client's lack of previous convictions and that significant time has lapsed since the abuse.