The 52-year-old man from the west of Ireland was given the 14-year sentence yesterday by the Central Criminal Court in a case which is the subject of an upcoming report on how health board officials failed to stop years of abuse within the family.
The independent inquiry, commissioned by the HSE and led by Norah Gibbons of Barnardos, could publish its findings as early as next month and is expected to question the state’s lack of effective intervention.
The mother of the six children in the family was sentenced to seven years in prison last year on charges of incest and negligence.
The Irish Examiner also understands that some of the health board officials involved in the latest case were also involved in decisions made in two other abuse cases in recent decades – the McColgan case in Co Sligo and the Fitzgerald case in Co Mayo.
Yesterday the child support group, One In Four, which has been assisting the now 20-year-old son who brought the abuse case against his father, said future legal actions against the state were probable.
Deirdre Kenny of One In Four said: “I would imagine that it is likely. The basis would be negligence, I imagine, and if the HSE report reaches that conclusion they (the children) may choose to go down that route.”
Some of the six children are still in the care of the HSE and as yet are not old enough to take a legal action.
That report is likely to look at why the health board in the area did not apply for a supervision order until 2004 when as far back as 1990 neighbours of the family had raised concerns over the parents’ drinking.
It is also expected to query the lack of action following a High Court injunction from the children’s mother which prevented them being taken into foster care in October 2000. That order was not vacated until May the following year, during which time the sexual abuse of the son who testified in the Central Criminal Court began.
In court yesterday Mr Justice Barry White said the man’s offences were all the more reprehensible because of the “appalling breach of the trust and innocence” of a child.
He noted the man had shown no remorse and had offered no apology. “You are in denial as regard to your offensive behaviour,” the judge said.
The final 18 months of the man’s sentence was suspended on the basis that he entered a bond to be of good behaviour for an 18-month period on his release.
Speaking after the sentence had been handed down the victim in the case said: “I’d have preferred if he got life. But I’m happy enough with 14 years.”
Reacting to the sentence, the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland (RCNI) said it was disappointed that the abusive father had not received a life sentence.
The chief executive of Children At Risk in Ireland (CARI), Mary O’Flaherty, said: “The suspension of any portion of the sentence was seriously ill-judged in view of the behaviour of the accused and in particular, his ongoing denials.”