Images of malnourished, neglected, and poorly dressed children wandering about on their own late at night were painted by witnesses at the trial of a mother charged with neglect and cruelty towards eight of her children.
The trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court heard that two neighbours regularly fed the woman’s two sons, while one bought them clothes because she felt sorry and wanted to care for them.
Prosecuting barrister Conor Fahy told the jury that, from records received by Garda Denise Kelleher from the Department of Social Welfare, the mother had received a total of €160,726 in social welfare payments, between July 2006 and May 2011.
The woman, who cannot be named, has pleaded not guilty to 44 charges of child abuse between September 1, 2006, and May 12, 2011, by wilfully assaulting, ill-treating, neglecting, or abandoning the children, or causing or allowing the children to be assaulted, ill-treated, neglected, or abandoned.
Six of the children were taken into care in May 2011 and have lived with different forster parents ever since. The others live with extended family members.
The trial heard from social worker Aoife Staunton, who said social services had been liaising with the family since 2006, after gardaí found the oldest two girls, who then aged 9 and 7, being cared for by a drunken man late at night near a dangerous water course.
Neighbours from various locations at which the family had lived between 2006 and 2011 also gave evidence yesterday.
One woman said she used to feed the two little boys.
“They always looked very neglected,” she said. “They used to come to my house straight after school asking if my daughter could go out and play with them.
“I ended up feeding them because they had no dinner. I used to feed them at least four times a week.”
A 19-year-old woman told the jury she has been friends with the eldest daughter, who is now also 19, since they started school together.
She described the girl as always looking tired and depressed and she was aware she was self-harming aged 13.
She said the girl moved in with her family in March 2011 for a few months.
“She was depressed all the time and she just really wanted to come and stay with us,” the witness said.
The trial continues tomorrow.
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