Munster rape trial hears of Tusla referrals after Garda interactions with family

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Munster Rape Trial Hears Of Tusla Referrals After Garda Interactions With Family
Various witnesses told how the children in their care had issues with self-care and food on arrival in their homes
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Fiona Ferguson

A jury in the trial of children who were allegedly abused by their parents and other family members have been hearing from foster parents of the complainants.

The various witnesses told how the children in their care had issues with self-care and food on arrival in their homes. One foster mother described how a child became "hysterical" when she tried to bathe him and another described how a child came to her with very little hair.

The court also heard from gardaí who made referrals to Tusla after interactions with the family before the children were taken into care.

The foster parents were giving evidence in the trial of three men and three women. The charges against a fourth woman – the children's grandmother – were withdrawn earlier in the week by direction of the trial judge.

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The remaining six accused, who cannot be named for legal reasons, include the parents, aunts and uncles of the three main child complainants.

There are reporting restrictions in place in the case to protect the identities and welfare of the child complainants.

Foster care

One foster mother described how when the child first arrived he was very quiet and upset. She said his teeth were yellow and seemed half the size of normal children's teeth.

She said he was very shy for the first couple of weeks. She said while she fed him he would be checking to see if there was more, and it was not running out. She said he did not appear to know how to hug or kiss.

She said a second child was very unsettled at night, they would hear him moving around, but he would pretend to be asleep when they went in. She described him as hyper-vigilant.

The foster mother agreed with Mark Nicholas SC, defending the children father, that the child would initially not ask for help, but gradually opened up and became more warm.

She agreed that on one occasion where a social worker had told him he did not have to go on an access visit with his family he had gone anyway.

Food issues

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A foster parent of two of the other children said one of the children had very little hair when they arrived. She said the child was very thin, extremely dirty and neglected and described her as very nervous and hyper-vigilant.

She said after encountering issues with food she had put the children on a chopped diet. She described how she would find food hidden around the house.

She described how there would be a change in the children's behaviour after access visits. She said they were upset, not sleeping, and getting into trouble at school. She said at one point there had been a break in access visits and things started to come to normal with not as much fighting and an improvement in school and sleeping.

She said the children's family made requests for photographs and school reports of the children through social workers.

The foster mother described how the children were unsettled and upset after garda interviews.

She agreed with another defence counsel that she had written in a diary that the girl had different personalities for all of us and a convincing way of making up a story.

She confirmed she also wrote "yet the small terrified little girl is in there".

Garda encounters

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A garda told Eilis Brennan SC, prosecuting, that he had encountered one of the "extremely young" children on the main street of a town. He said the child was noticeably dirty.
He said he was worried about the child, and it took five minutes for his father to arrive. He referred the matter to Tusla.

He agreed with defence counsel for the child's father that the father said the child had been in the park and run off and was much obliged to him for stopping the child.

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A second garda described how he responded to a call in relation to one of the children who had left school grounds without permission. The child was located at his home.

The garda said he spoke to the child's mother and observed a number of baby bottles with what appeared to be Coke and stale milk in them. He said the house was filthy, there was no food to be seen and washing stacked up on the washing machine. He said he made a referral to Tusla.

A further garda said he responded to a call about a child being up at 5.30am. He said he attended at the father of the children's house at 8.30am and the father told him the child had refused to go back to bed. He said there was also a child wearing just a t-shirt and no nappy.

The trial continues tomorrow before Mr Justice Paul McDermott and a jury.

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