The Health Service Executive has apologised unreservedly to a severely intellectually disabled elderly woman over physical and mental abuse suffered while she was in the Áras Attracta facility in Co Mayo.

The HSE has also agreed to pay the woman €440,000 under a settlement of her case at the High Court.

High Court President Mr Justice Peter Kelly described the woman's treatment at the hands of HSE personnel as "inhuman".

Her treatment came to light as a result of an RTÉ Investigates programme in late 2014.

Mr Justice Kelly said the woman had been moved and there had been a very substantial improvement in her condition and her circumstances since she had been treated humanely and appropriately.

He said this showed that if she had been treated properly beforehand, she would have had a far better quality of life than she had when the HSE was "in loco parentis" to her.

The judge said the case made sad reading for the woman and shameful reading for the HSE.

The woman was born in an institution and has a severe intellectual disability and other conditions. She has spent her entire life in institutions and has been in the care of the HSE and its predecessors since birth.

She is non-verbal and has no known living family.

She was placed in the Áras Attracta facility some years ago.

The judge said the RTÉ programme showed she had suffered inhuman treatment at the hands of HSE personnel involving physical assault and emotional abuse. 

The court heard she had been deprived of appropriate supports and stimuli, and was physically deprived and abused.

The woman was made a ward of court after the RTÉ programme.

The general solicitor for wards of court, Patricia Hickey, then took these proceedings on her behalf.

Senior Counsel, Sara Moorhead on behalf of Ms Hickey and the woman, said one of the most disturbing things about the RTÉ broadcast was the "indifference" to the woman's distress.

Lawyers for the HSE told the court that the HSE wished to apologise unreservedly to the woman for the manner in which she was treated.

Experts who have assessed the woman have said they are now delighted at the care she is getting but have made suggestions for improvements, including additional funding and resources to allow her to go on outings.

The HSE said those would be provided.

Mr Justice Kelly said it was to the HSE's credit that it did not try to deny liability for the treatment given to this woman.

He said the legal system could only provide financial compensation, which was no substitute for what she had suffered but was the best the legal system could provide.