A 49-year-old man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for a litany of sexual offences against seven siblings over a 17-year period.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy described the offences committed by Michael McCarville, of Longfield, Lisboduff, Cootehill in Co Cavan as being of the "utmost gravity".

McCarville, pleaded guilty to 52 sample charges out of 187 charges of indecent and sexual assault committed between 1982 and 1999.

The children were aged between seven and 17 when the abuse happened.  

Six of the children were raped by him.

McCarville had been employed as a labourer by the parents of the children on the farm on which they lived, beginning when he was aged 15.

He shared a bedroom with some of his victims and was treated in many ways as a member of the family.

Mr Justice McCarthy said the consequences for the sisters and brothers he abused had been devastating.

The court heard McCarville was married with three children of his own.

He was involved in assisting his community in his local church and GAA club and was "on the face of it" hardworking and respectable.

The accused's Senior Counsel Remy Farrell told the court that McCarville had instructed him to offer him an apology to the victims.

Before sentencing, Mr Justice McCarthy gave a detailed summary of the victim impact evidence he had heard.

The attacks took place in farm sheds, outhouses and fields.

The victims, five of whom had read their own statements to the court, described how their childhoods had been destroyed by McCarville.

One man said he could see no future. Others spoke of how horrified they were that their brothers and sisters had been abused. Some said they were struggling with mental breakdowns, flashbacks, depression, anxiety and fear.

Mr Justice McCarthy said he had considered handing down a life sentence to McCarville and had struggled with this, but imposed a 20-year sentence, giving McCarville credit for his guilty plea.

He also imposed a five-year period of post-release supervision.

Prosecuting counsel, Tara Burns told the court the brothers and sisters do not want to be identified but were happy for McCarville to be named.