A MAN has gone on trial in Letterkenny charged with cruelty to three of his six children.
The 48-year-old man – who cannot be named for legal reasons – has pleaded not guilty to six charges.
The charges relate to alleged offences between May 1, 2008 and April 22, 2012.
The man is accused of cruelty including physical assaults on the children and giving alcohol to two of them.
The children are now aged 19, 18 and 15.
The daughter now aged 18 cried as she gave evidence before a jury and Judge John O’Hagan as she alleged weekly assaults by her dad.
The court heard the HSE removed the children from their parents in January 2008 due to concerns about the father’s drinking.
The children were returned to their family home in March 2008, and the prosecution alleged, the father began drinking again six or seven weeks later.
The girl told the court that at first everything seemed fine.
“Dinner would be on the table when we got home from school and the house was clean,” said the girl who is now in foster care.
She said her parents were having the odd drink at the weekend.
However after a few weeks her mother would stay away from the house during the week in a friend’s flat to be nearer to her place of work.
Her father began drinking heavily, she claimed, sometimes until 7am in the morning.
She said each day her older sister would get her father to bed before they woke the younger children, made them breakfast and got them ready for school.
The teenager said that on St Patrick’s Day in 2009 she had gone to the shop. She sent a text to her mother and older sister telling them her dad was drinking again.
When she got home her dad had shouted at her: “Are you mouthing?”
She said her dad had gone to a cupboard, poured himself a rum and coke, and gone into the conservatory.
The girl said she went into the kitchen to make food for the other children when her dad then came up behind her and kicked her. She alleged he then banged her head off a cupboard door and when she turned around he head-butted her.
When he had finished assaulting her, she claimed he turned around and began strangling her older brother before stopping suddenly.
“Any time we stepped out of line we got hit,” she said.
Under cross-examination from barrister Peter Nolan, representing the accused man, the teenager said she stood by her allegations.
She denied making up the allegations because her father had stopped her from seeing her boyfriend.
The witness said she told friends at school about the alleged abuse and later told a teacher.
She said her sister also confirmed what had been happening.
The teenager confirmed to Mr Nolan that her sister had withdrawn her claims a day later and had written a letter saying the claims were made up because of a row over boyfriends.
However the witness said she refused to co-sign the letter.
Later a garda interview with a younger sister – now aged 15 – and filmed when she was 11, was played to the jury.
In the taped interview the girl said she had been assaulted on a number of occasions by her father.
She cried as she claimed her father had grabbed her by the hair and banged her head off a metal part of her bed. She said she wasn’t bleeding after the alleged attack but that she was very sore.
On another occasion he had grabbed her by the throat, she claimed, saying her father was always drinking at home.
“Even on New Year’s Eve they (her parents) were so angry,” said the girl in the taped interview.
She alleged that on another occasion her dad had smashed up furniture including her late granny’s chair.
“She wouldn’t have liked what was going on,” she said.
The girl then gave evidence in the case.
Mr Nolan put it to the girl that she and her older sister had been living together in a care facility between April and June 2012 and that her sister had helped her with what to say in the garda interview.
The girl said her sister had been supportive but hadn’t told her what to say.
She said she didn’t tell her mother about the physical abuse because she said she wouldn’t have believed her.
A primary school teacher who taught the girl when she was at primary school said she had a conversation with the girl walking near her home.
She said the girl had a bag over her shoulder and she waved to her. The teacher said she was quite upset and crying and told her she was running away from home.
The teacher said the girl said she had left home but didn’t want to say why.
“I just tried to calm her down,” said the teacher who returned the girl to her home.
The case continues.