'Don't be afraid': Woman whose father is jailed for repeat abuse of daughters appeals to victims
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'Don't be afraid': Woman whose father is jailed for repeat abuse of daughters appeals to victims

A WOMAN whose father was yesterday sentenced to 20 years in prison for the repeated sexual abuse and rape of his seven daughters and younger sister has issued an appeal for victims of abuse to come forward and not to be afraid.

James O'Reilly, 75, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for repeated, horrific sexual attacks on his sister and daughters between 1977 to 2000 after being convicted of 58 counts of rape and nine counts of sexual assault.

He also starved, beat and emotionally neglected his children throughout their lives as the Traveller family moved from place to place throughout Ireland.

One daughter became pregnant from the repeated rapes, and he continued raping her during her pregnancy, telling her to tell people she had been raped by another man and fallen pregnant.

A DNA test which proved he was the father of his daughter's child helped to secure his conviction, The Journal reports.

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Speaking outside of court yesterday, the oldest of the seven daughters, Helen, spoke bravely about her and her sisters' ordeal and made a heartfelt plea for victims of sexual abuse to come forward.

"I'm the oldest sister, and I was abused from the age of four upwards," she states as her family gather around her in support.

"I would say to all women, never mind traveller women, all women out there that were abused or if anything happened to them: come forward.

"Don't be afraid like what we were. We were afraid.

"We didn't know who to go to, what to do. We got no education, we got nothing.

"I'd say to them 'Stand up, and be who you are'," she continues as two of her sisters tell viewers not to be afraid.

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"We were afraid for years, I hid what my father done for 40 years and I never told no one, my husband, my children, nobody for 40 years.

"Now I'm not afraid because I know he's gone, he's going to do the time [as] he should have done years ago if we had had the strength and the courage to come forward.

"But do you know what?" she continues. "It makes us stronger.

"And it made me a better mother, because I would never bring my children to see him."

The daughters' bravery has sparked an outpouring of love, sympathy and respect from people across Ireland, Travellers and settled people alike.

Dr Sindy Joyce, Irish Traveller human rights activists and academic sociologist, wrote on Twitter:

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"I am so proud of these brave Minceir Beoirs (Traveller women), they are inspirational to all women everywhere.

"Not only did they expose their abuser but they have also exposed the institutional state neglect and discrimination of Mincéirí."

The O'Reilly women are now asking the Government to conduct a full investigation into the reasons their abuse was allowed to continue for so long without any intervention from the "school teachers, social workers, medical professionals and all the other people who had a so-called 'duty of care'" towards them.

"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," a statement from the family reads.

"Does this denial of our rights extend also to the right to protection and welfare as children?"

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Stating that "we know that what we had to suffer could have happened in any family in Ireland" the O'Reilly women go on to say that "the response of the state would have been different and ... much of the suffering could have been spared or avoided" had they been from a settled family.

To sign the petition or read the family's statement in full, you can visit the website here.