A grandmother who was "terribly" abused by her father for years has revealed how she feels that the family has been "disappointed" by the authorities because they were travelers.
Helen O & # 39; Donoghue, 51, was four years old when her father, James O'Reilly, 75, from Killeens, Ballynonty, Thurles, in County Tipperary, Ireland, started harassing her and she four years later by him was raped.
At the time, she did not know that he also abused his younger sister and six other daughters.
O & # 39; Reilly, who fathered a child with one of his daughters at age 16, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on 15 June after a five-week trial for 58 rapes and nine sexual assaults in December.
The women were beaten, starved and humiliated during their childhood and lived in poverty, although O & # 39; Reilly made good money as a scrap and horse dealer, according to the Central Criminal Court in Dublin.
Helen O & # 39; Donoghue (left), 51, was four years old when her father, James O'Reilly, 75, from Killeens, Ballynonty, Thurles, in County Tipperary, Ireland, started harassing her and four years later was raped by him
Helen spoke to the Irish Times about her childhood and said, “I think we were disappointed because we are travelers.
"Settled people, mostly they looked down on us travelers and thought:" That's how they live – dirty, smelly. "
Helen said that her father was "always well fed" while she and the sisters tried to "rob" the remaining potatoes.
She said she did not know that it was her birthday until she received a birth certificate for her marriage at the age of 25.
Daughters of convicted rapist James O & # 39; Reilly in front of the criminal court after hearing her father, who was detained for 20 years. Left to right: Philomena Connors, Helen O Donoghue, Anne O Reilly, Bridget O Reilly, Mary Moran, Margaret Hutchinson and Kathleen O Driscoll
The 51-year-old, the oldest of seven sisters, spoke on behalf of the women who were abused by her father, including his younger sister, from 1977 to 2000 over the 23 years.
Helen said she dealt with her abuse by "keeping silent" before the women entered Thurles Garda four years ago to describe what had happened to them through O & # 39; Reilly.
The abuse of James O & # 39; Reilly
James O & # 39; Reilly, 73, with an address in Killeens, Ballynonty, Thurles, exposed the teenage girls to "horrific" sexual abuse for 23 years, a court heard.
He pleaded not guilty to 81 cases of rape and sexual assault.
After a 27-day trial at the Central Criminal Court in June, he was convicted of 58 rapes and nine sexual assaults.
When Helen talked about the abuse, she said that her father always drove to remote and "isolated" places on purpose when they moved around the country.
She said, "I was four when it started – touching and feeling. We lived (then) in a horse carriage. & # 39;
She described that she was told that she was "worthless" and "an ugly creature" in childhood, but said it was "worse" to learn that her sister had also been subjected to the same abuse.
The children lived in trolleys and tents in a field next to a national school in Dublin for several years.
Helen, who had spent three weeks at school, including one week in Dublin before her holy communion and two weeks in another school in the capital before her confirmation, revealed how none of the schools questioned her short-term stays.
She said that as a child, she was forced to "stay home and cook and clean" while taking care of her father's horses, younger children, and "needs".
In the meantime, she said that "she would have loved to go to school."
In the meantime, Helen also announced that she had tried to commit suicide at the age of 12, "seven or eight times".
The women were beaten, starved and humiliated during their childhood and lived in poverty, although O & # 39; Reilly (pictured) made good money as a scrap and horse dealer, the Central Criminal Court heard
The family was not asked why the children who ate "trash cans" often went without "underwear" and "socks" about their wellbeing or why they were not at school.
Helen said a number of agencies, including social workers, schools, and the then Southeastern Health Board, were witnesses to the neglect, but remained silent.
Meanwhile, a 1997 social worker investigation failed to save the women after Helen's sister Kathleen reported the rape and sexual abuse she had suffered.
At that time, the Kathleen sisters did not confirm the reports at the time out of fear.
Her father was sentenced further after a sister became pregnant. The DNA test secured his conviction.
Helen revealed how the women feared that they would not be believed by the police, but said that they had been incredibly supportive all the time and that it was "brilliant" to see her father convicted.
Women are now looking for a public investigation into why government actors apparently failed to act while the children were out of school and exposed to abuse and neglect.
Left to right: Daughters of O & # 39; Reilly: Philomena Connors, Helen O & # 39; Donoghue, Anne O & # 39; Reilly, Bridget O & # 39; Reilly, Mary Moran, Margaret Hutchinson and Kathleen O & # 39; Driscoll
And they want to ask whether membership of a travel community has helped them to be abandoned by society and the state.
A spokeswoman for Tusla told the Irish Times that, prior to its creation, the agency, along with the then South Eastern Health Board and the HSE, "had to get all the files" related to the family's child protection services.
The HSE did not respond in time for the Irish Times to publish the article, and the two schools in Dublin could not be contacted.
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