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Irish woman jailed for incest, abuse of children

An Irish woman who forced a teenage son to have sex with her and abused and starved her other five children for years in a rat-infested bungalow was jailed for seven years.

world Updated: Jan 23, 2009 00:56 IST

An Irish woman who forced a teenage son to have sex with her and abused and starved her other five children for years in a rat-infested bungalow was jailed for seven years on Thursday.

The teenager was forced to have sex with his mother, now aged 40, on four occasions over a six-year period, the Irish Independent newspaper said.

The woman from central Ireland admitted to police her children -- now aged between 10 and 19 -- were often blue with cold, had dinner only twice a week and had lice crawling over their bodies.

"It was a house of horrors with bells on," the mother, who was not named in order to protect the identity of the children, was quoted as saying by several Irish newspapers.

"I can safely say that I was the worst mother in the world and I'd turn back the clock if I could, but I can't," she said.

The woman was given 7 years and concurrent sentences of 6 years on counts of carnal knowledge, incest and wilful neglect, Ireland's Courts Service said in a statement.

"I wish to express my absolute shock and abhorrence at the circumstances surrounding the case," Minister for Children Barry Andrews said in a statement.

He said a preliminary investigation into social services' handling of the case was under way and on the basis of that he would decide on further action.

Judge Miriam Reynolds said she would have given the woman a life sentence had she been a man, but the maximum sentence for women in such cases was seven years, the Irish Times newspaper reported on its website.

The woman is believed to be the first female convicted of incest in Ireland.

Austria shocked the world last year with what media dubbed the "house of horrors" case of Josef Fritzl, who imprisoned his daughter in a cellar for 24 years and fathered seven children by her. Fritzl will go on trial on March 16 on charges including the murder of one of their children.

The Irish woman from the central county of Roscommon admitted a total of 10 charges including incest, sexual abuse, neglect and ill-treatment.

The teenage son who was forced to have sex with her was quoted as saying by the irish Independent: "I was crying. She was my mother. Why did she do that to me?".

The children, who were moved to foster care in 2004, told healthcare workers their mother regularly left them on their own before coming home drunk around 3-4 a.m and arguing incoherently with them.

A police investigation began in 2005 after the eldest child revealed details of the abuse to Health Board staff.

One daughter said nits used to crawl down her face and their mother forbade her and her sister from tying up their hair because they would become too obvious, the Independent said.

"Mammy didn't take care of us right," one child said.