Daughters lived in ‘horror of a home’

A man who sexually assaulted his four young daughters in a “horror of a home” has been jailed for four-and-a-half years.

Judge Patrick McCartan said Mayo native Bernard Cunningham, aged 66, has never shown any remorse for subjecting his children to “unspeakable mental and physical cruelty”.

In April, a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court returned unanimous guilty verdicts on eight charges of indecent and sexual assault committed between 1978 and 1992.

Cunningham, of Royston, Kimmage Rd West, Dublin, had pleaded not guilty to the charges. At his sentence hearing, Judge McCartan noted how Cunningham had met the case by instructing his lawyers to put it to his daughters that they were lying.

He noted the “absolute absence of any remorse” and said the victims had been subjected to the most protracted and careful probing during cross-examination of their testimony. The women have waived their right to anonymity so that their father can be identified.

The eldest daughter told Gerardine Small, prosecuting, that Cunningham was “the nicest person to anyone looking in” but behind closed doors he was drinking heavily and would get great enjoyment out of seeing his daughter crying.

A number of references from Mayo people who know Cunningham and knew about his convictions described him as a kind and compassionate man.

His partner of 19 years, who continues to support him, told the court he was a kind man who cared for her dying brother.

Judge McCartan said that although the referees were well meaning, he could not marry their comments to the evidence of Cunningham’s cruelty.

He said the victims were reared in a “horror of a home” where, because of their father’s drinking, they were subjected to “sustained abuse, physical, mental and sexual”.


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