‘Today is the start of the rest of my life,’ sister says as brother jailed for abuse

Cian Farrelly was a teenager when he began sexually abusing Aoife at home in Castlepollard, Co Westmeath

A woman who was sexually abused by her older brother when she was a child has said today is the start of the rest of her life after he was jailed for three years.

Cian Farrelly (30) was a teenager when he began abusing his seven-year-old sister when he was minding her in their family home in Castlepollard, Co Westmeath.

His sister Aoife Farrelly, who waived her anonymity so he could be named, said her brother had “literally and metaphorically” held her in a chokehold for so long but no longer would.

She said she hoped he would finally pay for what he had done and that she was determined to grow and heal.

“Unlike you, I am not at fault and will no longer allow you to take up space in my head.”

“Goodbye Cian,” she said in her victim impact statement, adding she hoped she would never see or hear from her brother again.

Farrelly, of Kells Road, Oldcastle, Co Meath and Co Westmeath pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to rape and sexual assault of his sister at the family home on dates between 2007 and 2009. He has no previous convictions.

His sister was aged between seven and 8½ at the time, while Farrelly was aged between 15½ and 17 years old.

Sentencing Farrelly on Tuesday, Mr Justice Paul McDermott said Ms Farrelly’s childhood was destroyed and she was deeply affected by the abuse inflicted on her by her brother.

“There was a significant degree of violence which made the assaults all the more terrifying for a small child in the family home,” the judge said.

He said Ms Farrelly was brave enough to articulate what was happening to her when she confided in her mother about the abuse, but that she then largely had to deal with the consequences of the abuse and was left with a “sense of deep betrayal” and a “loss of trust in others”.

The judge said had he been dealing with the adult abuse of a child, he would have set a headline sentence of 10-15 years. But he noted the court must deal with Farrelly as a child, given that he was a teenager at the time of the offending.

He handed down a 4½-year sentence and suspended the final 18 months on a number of conditions, including that Farrelly have no contact of any kind with his sister.

Speaking outside court, Ms Farrelly said she was pleased with the sentence that was handed down, saying that the headline sentence the judge mentioned was “enough” for her.

“I always said it had to be three to five [years]. That was what I had in my head and I got that. When I got that, I just broke down because everything I sacrificed for years has finally made it all worth it.”

Ms Farrelly said she was determined not to let the abuse define her. “I am Aoife Farrelly, this happened to me but it’s not going to define me any more. Today is the start of the rest of my life and I am so grateful that I finally got my little piece of justice that I needed to keep going.”

During the sentence hearing, the court heard that as a child, Ms Farrelly confided in her parents about the abuse. Her parents then confronted her brother and the abuse stopped.

Ms Farrelly later made a statement to gardaí in October 2020 about the pattern of abuse.

In her victim impact statement, Ms Farrelly outlined the effects the abuse has had and continues to have on her life including self-harm, disordered eating, anxiety, stress and OCD.

She said she did not blame her parents but hated that they did not understand the weight of what he had done. She said her brother had been allowed to slot back into her life.

She described how she had dreaded sitting with her family at the dinner table seated beside Farrelly and had been “basically trapped” in the family home with him due to Covid.

She said she initially feared speaking about the abuse in case she was taken from her parents. She said her brother had silenced her for years, saying the abuse had to be “our secret”.

She outlined how she had loved music, singing and dancing but now refuses to touch her instruments as it reminds her of Farrelly.

“He has torn my whole world apart and I have lost everything because of him,” she said.

She said her education had also been deeply affected by the abuse and after reporting the offences, she had to drop out of college due to the stress.

She outlined how intimate relationships had been “ruined” by the abuse and her relationship with her parents was impacted. She said she hopes they can reconcile.

Cian Farrelly took the stand at the end of the hearing to apologise to his sister and say he was sorry for the hurt and pain he had caused.

“I destroyed our family and you and anything it meant for me to be your brother,” he said. “I hope you can rise and come out stronger than before.”