Fiona Ferguson and Isabel Hayes
A woman who was sexually abused by her older brother when she was a child has said today is the start of the rest of her life after he was jailed for three years.
Cian Farrelly (30) was a teenager when he began abusing his seven-year-old sister when he was minding her in their family home in Castlepollard, Co Westmeath.
His sister, Aoife Farrelly, who waived her anonymity so he can be named, said her brother had "literally and metaphorically" held her in a choke-hold for so long but no longer would.
She said she hoped he would finally pay for what he had done and that she was determined to grow and heal.
"Unlike you I am not at fault and will no longer allow you to take up space in my head."
"Goodbye Cian," she said in her victim impact statement, adding she hoped she would never see or hear from her brother again.
'Significant degree of violence'
Farrelly, of Kells Road, Oldcastle, Co Meath and Co Westmeath, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to rape and sexual assault of his sister at the family home on dates between 2007-2009. He has no previous convictions.
His sister was aged between 7 and 8½ at the time, while Farrelly was aged between 15½ and 17 years old.
Sentencing Farrelly on Tuesday, Mr Justice Paul McDermott said Ms Farrelly's childhood was destroyed and she was deeply affected by the abuse inflicted on her by her brother.
"There was a significant degree of violence which made the assaults all the more terrifying for a small child in the family home," the judge said.
He said Ms Farrelly was brave enough to articulate what was happening to her when she confided in her mother about the abuse, but that she then largely had to deal with the consequences of the abuse and was left with a "sense of deep betrayal" and a "loss of trust in others".
The judge said that had he been dealing with the adult abuse of a child, he would have set a headline sentence of 10-15 years. However, he noted the court must deal with Farrelly as a child, given that he was a teenager at the time of the offending.
He handed down a 4½ year sentence and suspended the final 18 months on a number of conditions, including that Farrelly have no contact of any kind with his sister.
Just hearing the headline sentence was enough for me.
Speaking outside court, Ms Farrelly said she was pleased with the sentence that was handed down, saying that the headline sentence the judge mentioned was "enough" for her.
"I'm a lot more content now than I was," she told reporters. "No sentence would have been long enough at all....but just hearing the headline sentence was enough for me.
"I always said it had to be three to five [years]. That was what I had in my head and I got that. When I got that I just broke down because everything I sacrificed for years has finally made it all worth it."
Ms Farrelly said she was determined not to let the abuse define her. "I am Aoife Farrelly, this happened to me but it's not going to define me anymore. Today is the start of the rest of my life and I am so grateful that I finally got my little piece of justice that I needed to keep going."
During the sentence hearing, the court heard that as a child, Ms Farrelly confided in her parents about the abuse. Her parents then confronted her brother and the abuse stopped.
Ms Farrelly later made a statement to gardaí in October 2020 about the pattern of abuse perpetrated on her by her brother.
In her victim impact statement, Ms Farrelly outlined the effects the abuse has had and continues to have on her life including self-harm, disordered eating, anxiety, stress and OCD. She says she has undergone counselling, psychotherapy and inpatient treatment for PTSD.
She said she did not blame her parents for what had happened but hated that they did not understand the weight of what he had done. She said her brother had been allowed to slot back into her life.
She described how she had dreaded sitting with her family at the dinner table seated beside Farrelly and had been "basically trapped" in the family home with him due to Covid.
She said she had initially feared speaking about the abuse in case she was taken from her parents. She said her brother had silenced her for years, saying the abuse had to be "our secret".
She outlined how she had loved music, singing and dancing but now feels sick to the stomach and refuses to touch her instruments as it reminds her of Farrelly.
"He has torn my whole world apart and I have lost everything because of him," she said.
She said her education had also been deeply affected by the abuse and after reporting the offences in 2020, she had to drop out of college due to the sheer amount of stress. She feels this is another thing her brother has taken from her.
She outlined how intimate relationships had been "ruined" by the abuse and her relationship with her parents was impacted. She said she hopes they can reconcile and hopes her brother is no longer part of her life.
Cian Farrelly took the stand at the end of the hearing to apologise to his sister. He told her he knew it would not mean much to her now, but he was sorry for the hurt and pain he had caused.
"I destroyed our family, and you, and anything it meant for me to be your brother," he said. "I hope you can rise and come out stronger than before."
Eileen O’Leary SC, defending, handed a number of reports into court including a probation report and a report from forensic psychological services. She said it was recommended that Farrelly attend specialised counselling in relation to sexual self-regulation.
She said it had not been possible to do a risk assessment as he had been under 16 when the offending started. She said he had expressed remorse.
Ms O’Leary said Farrelly had hearing difficulties and had been bullied at school. She said he was described as very introverted and makes no effort to build new relationships.
She said the sexual abuse had been a maladaptive attempt to achieve intimacy. Reports outlined Farrelly was a vulnerable child who went down a path with the most terrible consequences for himself, his sister and his family, the court heard.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call the national 24-hour Rape Crisis Helpline at 1800-77 8888, access text service and webchat options at drcc.ie/services/helpline/, or visit Rape Crisis Help.
In the case of an emergency, always dial 999/112.