Garda Sergeant John Hynes, who has worked on other child sex abuse cases, said the sheer extent of the trauma which the children endured may prevent them from disclosing all the details.
He said it was not possible to imagine what they had lived through.
The offences of abuse, incest and neglect took place at the children’s rural Co Roscommon home between 1998 and 2004, when the six were aged between four years and their teens. Their mother was jailed for seven years last week after pleading guilty to the charges.
Sgt Hynes, who worked on the case for many years, said he did not understand how any mother could do what she did.
“I am a father myself,” he said. “She was their mother, they were her children. She should have known help was there. The Health Board was involved since 1996, her GP and her family were there but she just covered up and told us lies wholesale.”
He described the three-bedroom bungalow home where the children lived as a “damp, cold dirty kip.” Clothes were “piled a mile high” and never washed. There were no bedclothes and when one of the children found maggots crawling in her sheets her mother refused to wash them.
According to Sgt Hynes, the children’s bravery was the only reason the abuse came to an end, as the HSE only sought an emergency order to remove the children when one child made a serious complaint in October 2004.
It was while the children, now aged 10 to 19, were in foster care that the details of the abuse came to light.
The Garda said the six youngsters were the only heroes in the whole affair.
Meanwhile, a Galway councillor said child abuse cases will continue to happen because people are afraid to report on them.
Fine Gael Cllr Michael Mullins, a member of the HSE West Regional Forum, said it was unclear what level of protection was available to whistle-blowers. It was imperative, he said, to ensure people did not “turn a blind eye” to child abuse.
“For that to happen teachers and other community leaders need to be satisfied that they will be protected if they report concerns,” Mr Mullins said.
The east Galway politician said people at present feel exposed as they do not know what legal implications might arise if they report allegations.
“People need to know they will be fully protected. Otherwise what happened in Roscommon could keep happening.”