The trial is taking place at a temporary courtroom at Croke Park
***READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED***
A JURY in the trial of children who were allegedly abused by their parents and other family members has 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.
She said she had never seen a child so afraid of being washed or water, adding it was very upsetting to watch.
She said 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.
The witness 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 hypervigilant.
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 an an access visit with his family he had gone anyway.
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 hypervigilant.
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 she saw the boy had a wound where it appeared flesh had been gouged out of his leg. She told the court she had not been prepared for a little girl with no hair and she had certainly not been prepared for his leg.
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 Mr Nicholas during cross examination that the wound she found on the boy's leg was an old one that was healed.
She agreed with another 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."
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.
The court also heard from gardai who made referrals to TUSLA after interactions with the family before the children were taken into care.
One 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.
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 six remaining accused, who cannot be named for legal reasons, include the parents, aunts and uncles of the three main child complainants.
The 56-year-old father of the three main child complainants has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts including rape, anal rape, oral rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation and wilfully neglecting a child at locations in Munster on unknown dates between August 18, 2014 and April 28, 2016.
The 34-year-old mother of the three main child complainants has pleaded not guilty to 25 counts including sexual assault, sexual exploitation and wilfully neglecting a child at locations in Munster on unknown dates between August 18, 2014 and April 28, 2016.
The mother and father have also pleaded not guilty to wilfully neglecting two other boys at a location in Munster on unknown dates between August 18, 2014 and April 28, 2016.
Two further men and two women, including aunts and uncles of the children, are also on trial.
A 35-year-old woman has pleaded not guilty to three counts, including sexually assaulting the girl and sexually assaulting one of the boys at locations in Munster on unknown dates between August 18, 2014 and April 28, 2016.
A 48-year-old man has pleaded not guilty to 12 counts including rape, anal rape, oral rape, sexual assault and sexual exploitation at locations in Munster on unknown dates between August 18, 2014 and April 28, 2016.
A 27-year-old man has pleaded not guilty 10 counts including rape, oral rape, anal rape, sexual assault and sexual exploitation at locations in Munster on unknown dates between August 18, 2014 and April 28, 2016.
A 32-year-old woman has pleaded not guilty to four counts, including sexual assault and sexual exploitation at locations in Munster on unknown dates between August 18, 2014 and April 28, 2016.
There are reporting restrictions in place in the case to protect the identities and welfare of the child complainants.
The trial continues tomorrow before Mr Justice Paul McDermott and a jury.
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