Judge John King granted the supervision order to the CFA for the five children at the Family Law District Court for three months after a senior social worker with the CFA, Stephen Molloy said he was “very shocked” and “deeply distressed” by the living conditions he witnessed at the family home.
Mr Molloy said that on his visit to the home last month, “there were animals everywhere in the home — cats and rabbits”.
“Whilst the rabbits were in a cage when I visited the home, their droppings were outside the cage on top of where food would be prepared. There were cats on the cooker and the counter tops. There were cats eating some of the food that was being given to the children for their dinner.”
Mr Molloy told the court if the supervision order was not granted “I would be very, very worried that the children would be subject to continue living in these conditions.”
Mr Molloy said he was told that the youngest girl in the family — who has chronic head lice — “loves to sleep in the dog bed and when I saw the dog bed, I was concerned as it was unclean”.
In the case, the CFA application was being opposed in court by the parents of the children who represented themselves in court.
Under cross-examination from the father on the appearance of the children, Mr Molloy said: “There was a very strong stench of cat urine off your children and your children were very unkempt and to me, your children hadn’t been bathed or washed in a number of days.”
Mr Molloy said that on entering the home: “I was greeted with a very strong smell of cat urine. The state of the home was horrendous. The children were dirty and very unkempt.”
Mr Molloy recalled that the social work visit to the house was cut short after the children’s father told him he wanted to record the visit and that if he wanted to talk to the children, he would have to go court.
Mr Molly said: “A supervision order is essential so that the children can be heard, that they can have a medical and that their voices can be heard. The children’s school is quite concerned that the children aren’t being heard.”
In evidence, the father said: “In the house, not everything is perfect and the main reason is the mental health of my wife is not the best. She gets demotivated.
“I don’t think the supervision order will help us with the motivation and it will do the opposite.”
The father told the court: “I still hate cats, but I prefer cats over mice in the house and living in the countryside, there are loads of them. To have cats in the house is a lower health risk than mice who would be eating cereal.”
Solicitor for the CFA, Kevin Sherry, said the answer from the witness was very concerning in itself.
In granting the order, Judge King said the threshold for the order has been met, telling the parents that they are doing their best, but that they have acknowledged they could do with some assistance.
Judge King directed that each child receive a medical from the HSE; that the children be interviewed independently by CFA staff; and be kept clean at all times.
He also directed that there be no animals in the children’s sleeping or food preparation areas.