A 40-year-old woman who admitted that she had made her 14-year-old son have sex with her on four occasions told gardaí they were living in what was described as a house of horrors.

Roscommon Circuit Court was told this afternoon that the incest took place after the woman returned in a drunken state from a local pub.

The boy later told HSE support services about the sexual assault.

When gardaí arrested the woman, she admitted the offences and said she was sorry for what had happened.

'Yes, it was a house of horrors with bells on it,' she said.

'My kids were sexually abused, not washed and not fed - I am the worst mother in the world and I don't deserve to get my children back.'

Sentencing before Judge Miriam Reynolds began this afternoon.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has pleaded guilty to charges of incest, sexual assault and wilful neglect and is being sentenced at Roscommon Circuit Court.

Her six children were aged between six and 15 when the offences took place over a six-year period at the family home.

In the course of detailed evidence given to Judge Reynolds when the case opened this morning, Sergeant John Hynes said the woman and her six children were living in appalling conditions at the family home when he first investigated the case.

He said the children were not fed properly, suffered from head lice and were beaten on regular occasions.

The mother left them alone in the house and went drinking on an almost daily basis. The house itself was strewn with rubbish, dirty clothing and stale food.

Sergeant Hynes gave evidence that the children were never toilet trained properly and fought amongst themselves while their mother was out in the pub.

The court was told a local doctor reported his concerns to the western health board but while social workers were coming in two days a week, the children were warned not to speak about the way they were treated and the full details of what the woman's sister described as horrific cruelty were not disclosed to gardaí until the children were taken into care at the end of 2004.

Judge Reynolds was told the Western Health Board had made an agreement in 2000 that the woman's children would be placed with their maternal aunt and uncle.

Childcare workers with the HSE told the court that the woman had subsequently gone to the court and secured a High Court order restraining the Western Health Board from going near her house or moving the children.

Judge Reynolds was told this order was secured by the woman with the support of a Catholic group and the plan to place the children with their maternal aunt and uncle did not go ahead.