Mum who beat children and held their heads under water is jailed
A mother who subjected seven of her children to horrific neglect has been jailed for four years.
The litany of abuse included beating them, driving a car at two young children, pushing one down the stairs and holding their heads under water.
The 39-year-old mother, who cannot be named to protect her children, was found guilty at Galway Circuit Criminal Court of 29 counts of cruelty and neglect of her children over a five-year period. She was sentenced to four-and-a-half years with the final six months suspended.
The maximum penalty for each count was seven years in prison.
Judge Karen O'Connor said that mitigating factors in the case had been minimal as there had been no guilty plea and no remorse shown.
She said there was "general neglect", "absence from home" and "failure to look after most basic needs of the children".
She added that there was "an atmosphere of fear" and the children were "frightened, anxious and helpless as they observed their siblings being beaten".
Judge O'Connor said one of most disturbing aspects of the case was when the mother had tried to attribute blame to her eldest daughter.
During the trial the mother admitted pouring washing-up liquid into the mouths of three of her children but told the court she "didn't see anything wrong" with her actions.
She also accepted that she smacked her children, hit them with a belt and spoon and left two young daughters in the care of a functioning alcoholic while she went to a pub.
Two hours later the children were found by gardai with the man who was so drunk he could not care for them.
However, she denied this was abusive or neglectful behaviour.
The woman's older daughter gave evidence of her mother trying to drown her in the kitchen sink. She said the violence was worse with alcohol but could happen "on any day".
One young boy told how his mother had laughed after pushing him down the stairs.
On another occasion she had driven a car at her two young sons after they spilled ice-cream, causing them to take evasive action.
The abuse came to light when the children were taken into care in May 2011, after social workers made an unannounced visit and found the children left in "a chaotic scene" in the care of two intoxicated men, one of whom was asleep on a bed.
Victim impact statements were also read from some of the children, who told of their ongoing anxiety, feelings of sadness and a lack of self worth. The children also told of their sadness that they no longer saw their siblings often.
Judge Karen O'Connor said the children had told of years of neglect with an absence of food, adequate footwear or clothing.
A former partner of the woman, who pleaded guilty to three charges of abuse and two of neglect was given a two year suspended sentence.