A Galway man who pleaded guilty to raping his niece has been allowed to change his plea after the complainant admitted she had been lying.

The girl, who is now aged 18, told gardaí that her mother made her file a complaint when she was about ten years old claiming her uncle had abused her.

The 41-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had maintained his innocence until the trial but pleaded guilty on the day because he said he was "completely terrified" of going to prison.

He believed a guilty plea offered the best chance of avoiding a jail sentence.

He had pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to rape and serious sexual assault at a house in Galway city on a date between 1 September 2004 and 28 February 2005.

Conor Devally SC, prosecuting, said the man's older sister approached gardaí in April this year and admitted she made her young daughter write to the gardai and make allegations about her brother.

She said this was done because she suffered from depression and anorexia and wanted her brother out of the house.

"I told her a lot of stuff to say, to blame him and what kind of things he did. It took a lot of time to get her to understand, she didn't want to do it.”

The woman admitted she had been cruel to make her daughter say this.

A statement written by the accused was read out in court by his counsel, Feargal Kavanagh SC, in which the man said he could not understand the allegations and had always instructed his solicitor that he was innocent.

The man said at the time of the allegations he had been drinking an enormous amount of alcohol, and could not recall that period of his life with any degree of accuracy.

"I knew there were days I could not account for as I had been drinking so much. My memory was never good; it's almost non-existent now," the man said.

The court heard that the man has a mild intellectual disability and has spent time in hospital for mental health issues. He is the youngest of a very large and extremely dysfunctional family, counsel said.

He said he was "overcome by panic" and in a state of near nervous collapse at the thought of going to prison, and was terrified that he would be preyed upon by other prisoners.

He said a member of his family convinced him to plead guilty to at least one of the allegations in the hope that he would get a suspended sentence.

Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley granted the man's application to change his plea, and adjourned the case for mention.

She remanded the man on unconditional bail, removed him from the sex offender's register and excused him from attending court on the next date.