The Irish Association of Social Workers has called for accountability following the Co Roscommon child abuse case.

It has also called for a constitutional referendum on children's rights.

Yesterday at Roscommon Circuit Court, a 40-year-old mother of six who had pleaded guilty to incest, neglect and abuse was sentenced to seven years in prison.

The association issued the statement in response to last night's Prime Time programme that examined the case.

The association describes as horrific the accounts of sexual abuse and neglect.

The details, the statement said, were shocking, and included children suffering from hunger, living in sub-standard conditions, and being faced with the consequences of alcohol abuse.

Roscommon Circuit Court was told yesterday that the six children were not fed properly, suffered from head lice and were beaten and abused on regular occasions.

The association is calling on Minister for Children Barry Andrews to act immediately upon receiving a report from the health authorities on the matter.

Association spokesperson Declan Coogan said that the case highlights the need for the Government to fulfil a commitment made by Bertie Ahern when he was Taoiseach to hold a constitutional referendum on the rights of the child.

Mr Coogan also says that the Roscommon case demonstrates the realities familiar to social workers in Ireland - that when children are placed in a safe environment such as a foster home, they can then give a full account of their experiences and receive the help and support they need.

Shatter calls for independent inquiry

Fine Gael has called for an independent inquiry into the circumstances relating to the case.

Alan Shatter said that the tragedy of this case was that child protection laws were adequate, but were not applied properly.

He said the Government had failed to implement recommendations made in several reports on child protection since 1996 and that the Western Health Board had failed to protect children in its care.

Minister Andrews said the Roscommon case was the most shocking and abhorrent he had ever come across, but he said he would wait until he received the HSE report into the matter before deciding on any other further steps.

Mr Andrews said it was important not to jump to conclusions.

The Board of Management of the school where the children had been attending has said that it had followed all proper procedures in the case and reported concerns about the children to the authorities when it was deemed necessary.

The members of the board have said that they are absolutely shocked at the revelations that have emerged from the trial.