A support worker with the Traveller community has called for a review of the case in which eight women were abused and raped over a 23-year period.

Yesterday, 75-year-old James O'Reilly, from Killeens, Ballynonty, Thurles in Co Tipperary, was jailed for 20 years at the Central Criminal Court for the repeated rape and sexual abuse of his seven daughters and his younger sister.

Jack Griffin, a family support worker with Tipperary Rural Traveller Project, said the State failed the eight women.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Griffin said that Travellers experience a lot of racism and discrimination in Ireland and often fear engaging with State services and authorities.

He said there needs to be cultural competence in terms of how State agencies engage with an extremely marginalised community.

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Speaking on the same programme, the CEO of SAFE Ireland, said State and systems failures need to be examined in the case of O'Reilly.

Sharon O'Halloran described it as a barbaric and brutal case of coercive control, adding that she had "no doubt" that the fact they were a Traveller family was a compounding factor in the failure to protect the women because of the racism that Travellers experience in Ireland.

She said that there is no class or family immune to coercive control and there is a lot of work to do and a strong prevention strategy is needed.

Ms O'Halloran said a minister and a fully resourced department are needed to tackle the entrenched systemic failures that exist around domestic and sexual violence.

'Remarkable strength'

The Irish Traveller Movement offered its solidarity to members of the Reilly family.  

The organisation commended the women for demonstrating "remarkable strength" and commend their courage to strive for justice and in doing so waving their anonymity.

The Irish Traveller Movement has called on anyone, who as minors or adults, experienced domestic abuse or abuse in any setting to come forward.

It also noted the role of Tusla regarding the duty of care to the welfare of all children including Travellers.

The group pointed out that concerns have been expressed by the family as to whether they were "treated differently and given less protection as Travellers by the state".

The Irish Traveller Movement says Travellers' experience of discrimination in accessing many services including family support and social services is common.

It says steps must be taken to ensure unconscious bias by services engaged in protecting the welfare of children should be eradicated. 

It also points out that there has been "long-term calls" for a child protection strategy specifically aimed at Travellers given the experience of high levels of marginalisation, discrimination and poverty. 

The Traveller Movement says Tusla should, in consultation with Traveller organisations, delegate a team to work with Traveller organisations and leaders to devise a child protection strategy specifically aimed at Travellers.

Meanwhile, the Rape Crisis Network has echoed calls for an inquiry into the case.  

Spokesperson Cliona Sadlier said an inquiry would find out if concerns were raised or reported to the authorities. 

"What we are interested in is how the system responded. Were they actually reported in, was that formally accepted as a report in and what happened in terms of the decision making around that and was that coloured by the fact that they came from the Traveller community and did that change the type of decision making and the type of action that in this case were not followed through on."

In court yesterday, Mr Justice Tony Hunt described O'Reilly's actions as horrific, pointing to the escalating and repetitive nature of the offending.

Afterwards, the women asked why the statutory authorities did not intervene sooner and were they not protected because they were a Traveller family.

They urged other victims of abuse, particularly those in the Travelling community, to speak up, come forward and report abuse and questioned if this would have been allowed to continue for so long if it had been a respected settled family in Ireland.