Two sisters who found the courage to give evidence at County Sligo Circuit Court about their sexual abuse as children at the hands of their uncle were left speechless and dismayed by what they called his light sentencing.

Michael John Cunningham, 63, was jailed for two years on Monday.

According to the Irish Times one girl was only nine when she was abused while the other remembered the abuse starting some time after her First Communion.

Fiona, 34, and Caroline Roddy, 32, opted to waive their anonymity so their uncle could be publicly named for abuse that dated from 1987 to 1993.

Cunningham reportedly pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting Fiona at the home she shared with her parents between Christmas Day, 1987 and February 29, 1988.

Cunningham also admitted sexually assaulting Caroline at the home he shared with his mother – the girls’ much-loved grandmother – between January 18, 1991 and September 30, 1993.

Both women said their childhoods were ruined by his abuse and the subsequent trauma in their adult lives as a result of it.

Fiona told the court: 'When I think back to my childhood, I don’t think of all the normal things like dolls, dressing up, playing with friends or Christmases.

'I think about what my uncle did to me, touching me, hurting me, making me feel dirty and telling me to keep secrets. He stole my childhood from me.'

She told the court she began to have flashbacks in her 20s. When she remembered fully what happened, it took over her whole life and she started drinking and taking drugs.

Caroline, who only learned in recent years what Fiona had endured, said she was violated when she was eight. Her suffering reportedly resulted in a family split.

'I could never visit Nanny in comfort as my uncle also lived there. I was very fond of Nanny and I realize I have missed out on so much as I was nervous about visiting. I could never enjoy family events and meetings as I found it hard to face him.'

The court was told that Cunningham, who is part-sighted, worked all his life on the family farm and cared for his mother.

His wife Joan told the court how after a visit to the shrine of Medjugorje in Herzegovina, Cunningham told her of the abuse of his nieces.

As Cunningham told the court of his deep remorse, Fiona, sitting with Caroline and two friends, slowly shook her head in disbelief.

The judge reportedly imposed a two-year sentence for the abuse of Fiona and 15 months for the abuse of Caroline.

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