Call for inquiry into Roscommon abuse case

 

Opposition parties and care organisations have called for an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the abuse of six children by their mother in Roscommon over a prolonged period.

A 40-year old woman was sentenced to seven years in prison today after pleading guilty to incest, sexual assault and neglect of her children.

Roscommon Circuit Court yesterday heard details about the plight of the six children who, despite coming to the notice of social workers in 1996, were not into taken into care until 2004.

Fine Gael called for the setting up of a commission of investigation into the case and urged the Health Service Executive (HSE) to give public assurance about current practice relating to children thought to be at risk.

"The shocking and disturbing revelations of neglect and physical and sexual abuse tragically suffered by six children in Roscommon and the scandalous failure of the [health authorities] to effectively intervene at an early stage, once more reveal the gross inadequacies and dysfunctional nature of our child protection services, said the party's children spokesman Alan Shatter.

“All issues of relevance to what occurred must be investigated including not only social work contact and deliberations but also the children’s interaction with teachers, medical personnel and others in a position to report children at risk and to seek appropriate intervention", he added.

The Labour Party called for an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the case including the role of the health board and the financing of a court case taken by the mother.

The Irish Timesreports today that social workers connected to the case believe the woman received support from “a Catholic right-wing organisation” when she got a High Court injunction in 2000 to stop the children from being placed in the care of relatives.

Labour Party spokeswoman on children Jan O'Sullivan said the children at the centre of the case were let down by institutions of the State.

"We had all hoped that the appropriate lessons had been learned from previous cases that emerged during the 1990s, but here is yet another instance where children were let down by the institutions of the State and exposed to unspeakable neglect and abuse," said Ms O'Sullivan.

"Whatever legal, constitutional or institutional action that is required, must now be taken to ensure that children are never again left in such a situation," she added.

The ISPCC responded to the case by reiterating its call for a referendum to strengthen children’s rights.

The organisation expressed serious concerns over reports that the children were left to suffer a litany of horrendous abuse, many years after concerns regarding serious neglect were first reported.

“It is unacceptable that children abused to this level fall through the cracks created by a Constitution that does not truly value children,” said ISPCC advocacy manager Mary Nicholson.

"While the true scale of the abuse only came to light following the children’s eventual placement in care in 2004, serious questions need to be asked as to why these children were left in such a detrimental environment for as long as they were, she added.

Solicitor and family law expert Geoffrey Shannon also called on the Government to bring forward legislation for the referendum on children’s rights

Speaking on Newstalk radio, Mr Shannon said: “This should put the constitutional referendum back online, it’s a matter for all politicians. It’s being considered at the moment by the Committee for the Constitution, they really can’t sit and wait for years....we see cases such as this and we realise time isn’t on our side.”

The Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) welcomed today's sentencing but said many questions remained unanswered. It also said that the custodial sentence handed down did recognise the seriousness of the sexual crimes committed but that it also highlighted the need to reform incest laws.