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Taoiseach says it's 'extremely frustrating' Grace case inquiry is taking so long

Varadkar said he is confident there is a pathway to ensure that the report can be delivered this year.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said it’s “extremely frustrating” the Grace case commission of inquiry is taking so long.

Varadkar said he was Minister for Health when government decided that there should be a commission of inquiry into the matter.

“But I don’t think any of us imagined that it would take as long as it has,” he told The Journal in Boston. 

Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman, in consultation with Minister of State for Disabilities Anne Rabbitte, received government approval last week to grant the Farrelly Commission an extension of another six months. 

The final report was due to be completed in May 2019.

The Grace case concerns a young woman with profound intellectual disabilities who was left in a foster home in the Waterford area for almost 20 years despite a succession of sexual and physical abuse allegations.

In 1995, on the back of these claims, the South Eastern Health Board decided not to place any further people in the home.

However, a decision to remove Grace was overturned in 1996. As a result she stayed in the home until a whistleblower’s complaint in 2009One of two interim reports - running to a total of about 800 pages - said the “evidence on the rationale for the decision was weak and confused and remembered as some unarticulated impediment or obstacle to carrying through the decision to remove Grace from her foster placement”.

The controversy resulted in the then-HSE Director General Tony O’Brien apologising to the 47 families – including Grace’s – who were in the care of the home.

Speaking yesterday evening to reporters, the Taoiseach said he spoke to Children’s Minister Roderic O’ Gorman about the matter a week ago, stating that the minster shared his concerns.

Varadkar said the minister assured him he was confident now that there was a pathway to seeing the inquiry come to a conclusion, which O’Gorman had been concerned was not the case before. 

The Taoiseach told The Journal that once a commission of inquiry is established, it is independent of government and it’s not possible or appropriate for it to interfere in the investigation or inquiry of this nature. 

While he said there have been interim reports, he reiterated that it has been extremely frustrating it has taken such a long period of time for the final report to be delivered, stating that it does demonstrate why often a non-statutory inquiry, similar to the Scally inquiry into the Cervical Check controversy, “can be better”.

“You might get answers quicker than with a Commission of investigation, because ultimately, what happens there is people retain lawyers, and when lawyers are involved, things sometimes take a long time,” he added. 

He said an “awful lot has changed since Grace was in foster care in that particular home”.

Varadkar said there are a whole new set of laws around child protection and a dedicated child agency, Tusla, now exists.

“But it’s still important to find out what happened at the time and then identify any further changes that might be made into future,” he concluded.

Minister Rabbitte told The Journal last week that she and O’Gorman met with members of the commission to voice their concerns at yet further delays in the final report being delivered.  

“Quite honestly, I am disappointed that the Commission of Investigation has not yet concluded its work on this Phase 1 report.

“I have met members of the Farrelly Commission along with Minister O’Gorman, and made it abundantly clear that I am not happy with the pace of work. I know the Commission recognises the importance of getting the report finished and produced as quickly as possible, and I really hope we’re not in this situation again,” she said.