A terminally ill man who sexually abused five of his daughters throughout their childhood will be sentenced next week.
The 74-year-old man pleaded guilty to 16 sample counts of rape, indecent assault and sexual assault over a 13-year period between 1977 and 1990 in a number of locations around Galway.
An investigation was launched in 2008 when five of the man's daughters made a complaint to gardai about being sexually abused throughout their childhood. The women are now all in their 30s.
Sergeant Tom Butler told Paul Greene SC, prosecuting, that the women were brought up under a strict code of militaristic discipline, and their father would slap or hit them with a wooden paddle.
Large trees were planted around the garden and the children were discouraged from making friends or leaving the boundaries of their home.
Sergeant Butler said the women's father planned his crimes well and would abuse his daughters when their mother was in hospital or working elsewhere in the house.
He described the abuse as “unrushed and methodical.”
The abuse followed a similar pattern, starting when each daughter was four or five-years-old and continuing into their teens.
The Central Criminal Court heard that the man raped two of his daughters from the age of eight and at times the abuse happened on a daily or weekly basis.
The children would often be given small gifts after being abused, such as cheese, coins or a matchbox full of sweets. The children would always be warned or threatened not to tell their mother.
The court heard that their father was cruel to animals, and had once caught a stray cat in a potato sack and smashed it against the wall, telling his children: “This is how you kill a cat.”
The elderly man initially denied all accusations and insisted that his daughters were lying.
He later admitted to the abuse and blamed his bad memory on his deteriorating health.
In a victim impact statement, one of the women said: “I started to become aware of darkness in the house from a young age” and said fear was the most prominent emotion of her childhood.
She said she wet the bed often as a child because she was afraid to go to the toilet in case she bumped into her father.
Fergal Kavanagh SC, defending, said his client had written letters to all of his daughters apologising and asking for forgiveness.
Mr Kavanagh told the court that his client suffers from a series of serious medical issues including cancer, which is spreading to his lungs, and the infectious MRSA disease.
Mr Justice Paul Carney said he would be handing down a significant prison sentence but is concerned for the safety of staff and prisoners due to the risk of catching the infection.
He ordered a report on which prison would be able to take him and put sentencing back until next Monday.
Four of the women read their own victim impact statements in court.
One of the women said the house was surrounded with trees “like a fortress” and she was forced to create her own world because friendships were discouraged.
She said she felt like a trapped animal at the time and has suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts.
Mr Kavanagh said his client was born in England during World War II and had a difficult upbringing.
He said he was made an orphan during the war and never knew what happened to his parents.
He moved to the west coast of Ireland where he started a family but had not worked and survived on social welfare.
Garda Ailish Hynes told Mr Greene that the accused is very religious and quoted extensively from the bible during the garda interview.
The five women come from a much larger family and their decision to make a complaint has caused a divide in the family.
Their mother decided to stand by her husband and has lost contact with some of her daughters as a result.
Letters from other siblings were handed into court detailing the happy elements of their childhood as well as describing and sympathising with a long list of serious illnesses that their father suffers from.
Mr Justice Carney said he would be handing out a significant sentence which meant the man may die in prison.
He said he was not concerned about the man's age, adding: "It's what he might be spewing into other people that concerns me."