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Nine months after probe promised into alleged foster care abuse - still no inquiry

The scandal resulted in the HSE Director General Tony O’Brien apologising to the 47 families who were in the care of the home.

Social Protection Leo Varadkar(R) and Minister of State Finian McGrath.
Social Protection Leo Varadkar(R) and Minister of State Finian McGrath.
Image: RollingNews.ie

IN FEBRUARY IT was announced that an inquiry was to be set up into allegations of abuse involving a woman with intellectual disabilities at a foster home in the south east.

‘Grace’ was placed in a foster home despite an allegation of sexual assault having been made by a former resident.

In 1995 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 2009.

image HSE boss Tony O'Brien appearing before the Public Accounts Committee. Source: Irishtimes

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

‘Seek to do right’

In February, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said a commission of investigation will “seek to do right by Grace, and all the young people and adults, who have been similarly treated”.

Nearly nine months later – still no investigation.

New details have emerged today which show that two legal issues have held up the establishment of a commission of investigation.

A report by Conor Dignam SC, which the government said would inform the terms of reference of the commission, was completed at the August.

Dignam’s terms of reference included the examination of the following:

  • the procedures and process followed by the HSE in procuring services to carry out reviews and provide reports into the foster care home.
  • the appropriateness and adequacy of the approach adopted and the review contained in the reports
  • the reasons why the reports have not been published to date and whether those reasons are well grounded
  • whether the two reports can now be published in full or in redacted form, taking into account current garda investigations.

McGrath received Dignam’s report on 29 August and released a press release stating the government was fully committed to the establishment of an investigation.

11/10/2016. Budget Day Social Protection Leo Varadkar(R) and Minister of State Finian McGrath. Source: RollingNews.ie

I am mindful that at the heart of this issue is a young citizen in the care of our State and her rights and welfare must be the primary consideration in these matters.My overriding concern is for the safety and protection of vulnerable people in the care of the State, and I want to repeat my determination that this historical issue will be comprehensively examined and addressed.

In his report, Dignam drew attention to the legal procedural and administrative matters which he advised should be addressed before the report is published.

Update

Yesterday Dignam informed the department by letter that the first of the legal procedural issues has been completed. This now leaves one final matter to be addressed – which the department is taking “immediate steps to do so”.

As soon as these matters have been addressed, it’s understood the minister will bring the report to government with a view to publishing it.

Yesterday, Waterford TD John Deasy asked the Taoiseach bluntly what is causing the delay?

When Enda Kenny could not give him a straight answer, Deasy sharply replied that he would just ask again next week.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Deasy said he wanted clarity into what the legal processes are in question and how long it is going to take to resolve.

He called on the minister to set out a timeline for the commission of investigation to be established and said a date should be given as to when the Dignam report will be published.

The department claims that it took steps to immediately address matters set out by Dignam in his report.

Since August, it’s understood the minister and his officials have been studying the report and its findings and preparing draft terms of reference for an investigation.

It’s believed the minister will bring the report to Cabinet in the next few weeks. The establishment of the commission of investigation will then have to be approved by the Oireachtas.

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