Tipperary Rural Travellers Project back calls for investigation into family sexual abuse case
Eight women were raped and abused over a 23-year period
By Clodagh Meaney
Tipperary Rural Travellers Project have backed calls for a full investigation into the failure of statutory agencies to investigate or intervene years of abuse endured by eight members of the O'Reilly family.
James O'Reilly, from Killeens, Ballynonty, Thurles Co. Tipperary, raped and abused his seven daughters and his younger sister between 1977 and 2000.
On Monday, the sisters united outside court as their 75-year-old father, James O'Reilly, was jailed for 20 years on 58 counts of rape and nine counts of sexual assault.
The family have asked for an investigation and said in a statement: "We have all been living through our own personal hell. We are relieved that justice has been done and that the crimes committed against us as children are no longer hidden or denied by anybody."
"No more needs to be said about the hell we have lived through and somehow survived. But more does need to be said about how it was allowed to happen," they continued.
"We are left with many questions, and we need answers."
The family have questioned how schools, social workers and medical professionals looked the other way when they were presented with evidence that the women were abuse survivors.
"Where were the different parts of the state when we as vulnerable and defenceless children needed protection?"
"How could schools, social workers, medical professionals and all the other people who had a so-called ‘duty of care’ turn their back and look the other way – time after time as the evidence was piling up and hitting them in the face?" they added.
"We were vulnerable Traveller children, forced to live on the edges of Irish society, already looked down, discriminated against and denied our basic human rights. Does this denial of our rights extend also to the right to protection and welfare as children?"
The family have also highlighted that as Travellers they were already subject to discrimination, and questioned if a settled family would have been treated differently.
"Would the same state neglect, the same agreement that nobody should say a word, the same ability to turn the blind eye have been evident if this had been a respected settled family in Ireland?"
"God knows we know that what we had to suffer could have happened in any family in Ireland. But we also know that the response of the state would have been different and there is a good chance that much of the suffering could have been spared or avoided," they added.
"We are asking you not to ask ‘how could this happen in a Traveller family’. Do ask ‘how could this happen in any family'? But also ask ‘were we not protected because we were Travellers'?" their statement continued.
Tipperary Rural Travellers Project, who have endorsed a petition, have publicly backed the calls in the wake of the judgement that found James O'Reilly guilty of rape and sexual assault.
"We cannot even begin to imagine the pain and trauma the family has endured, and we want also to commend the Reilly women in the courage, determination and humanity they have shown under such terrible circumstances."
"We sincerely hope that their courage can provide some inspiration and encouragement for others who suffer abuse and trauma from such circumstances."
You can sign their petition here.