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HSE says sorry to victim of 'savage abuse', after apology "misunderstanding"

The woman was allegedly subjected to sexual and physical abuse for 20 years.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/Kamira

THE HSE HAS formally apologised to a woman who was allegedly physically and sexually abused for two decades in a foster home.

In recent days, the HSE was forced to deny lying about making an apology to the woman.

Last week, Fine Gael TD John Deasy told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) the organisation had not apologised to the woman.

He claimed to have it on good authority that an apology was not made to the female victim, who cannot speak and has an intellectual disability, at a meeting with the HSE on 10 December – contrary to the executive’s version of events. He also disputed the HSE’s claim that an apology was made to the woman’s birth mother.

On RTÉ’s This Week, a whistleblower backed up Deasy’s claim. It has now emerged that a written apology has been sent to the woman in question.

In a statement, a spokesperson said:

“Following on from recent media reports, the HSE can confirm that a formal letter of apology for the significant failings in care has been issued to the service user at the centre of the Conal Devine report as well as other relevant parties.

While the HSE has acted in good faith, some misunderstanding has arisen in relation to the nature of the apology offered. The HSE very much regrets any misunderstanding around the level of, or the fullness of, the apology.

Last week, the Irish Examiner revealed that over Christmas PAC received a 24-page version of a 200-page report into the allegations about the foster home, which is based in the south east.

It is claimed that people with severe intellectual disabilities were sexually and physically abused in the foster home over a 20-year period.

PAC decided to refer the claims to Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan and Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Conal Devine report 

The Conal Devine report examined the alleged abuse of the woman between 1989 and 2009 (when she was 11-31 years old). It has not been published due to a request from gardaí who are investigating many of the allegations.

The report is based on claims that a single foster care family abused some of the more than 40 vulnerable children and adults placed in their care between 1983 and 2009.

The then-South Eastern Health Board ended all summer respite and longer term placements by 1995, but the woman who received the apology was left there until 2009.

In recent years the HSE has commissioned three investigations into the claims, while the Department of Health commissioned a review in 2015.

“Savage abuse”

During PAC’s meeting Deasy said the individuals involved were “subjected to savage abuse”.

john deasy Source: Oireachtas TV

The depravity of it is unbelievable. You would expect some sense of justice and compassion [from the HSE].

Deasy said the victims were “treated appallingly”, perhaps due to the fact an admission of wrongdoing could lead to legal cases that “might cost the state a lot of money” and “endanger people’s careers”.

“If the state agency is now involved in constructing stories with regard to apologies that have not been given … we’ve a serious problem internally in the HSE, that is just rotten.”

A Garda spokesperson told TheJournal.ie: “We are not in a position to comment on correspondence from third parties or specific allegations that have been made, but all complaints made to An Garda Síochána are fully investigated.”

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach noted the decision of PAC to refer the case to his office.

Read: HSE accused of failing to heed abuse warning regarding foster child with intellectual disabilities

Read: ‘People sleeping against walls and lying on the floor’: Emergency departments likened to warzone

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Órla Ryan

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