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TD claims HSE manager tried to destroy career of whistleblower in Grace abuse case

The whistleblower alleges the manager “fabricated” information about her.

John Deasy
John Deasy
Image: Gareth Chaney/RollingNews.ie

A SENIOR HSE manager “fabricated” information about the whistleblower who revealed details of the Grace abuse case and tried to “destroy” her career, according to John Deasy.

The Fine Gael TD made the claims in the Dáil yesterday.

Last year RTÉ’s This Week revealed the story of Grace – 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 the whistleblower’s complaint in 2009.

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

Deasy told the Dáil: ”The HSE refused to make Grace a ward of court, even after her removal from the placement. I believe its reasons were that it would probably have to tell the court she had been left at risk and that she would take a civil action. The whistleblower then personally petitioned the High Court on the matter.

“The HSE tried to stop her. It referred to the funding it gave to her organisation. It contacted the chairman of the board she worked for and put as much pressure as it could on the whistleblower.

“The HSE managers involved wrote letters, including several solicitor’s letters, to the whistleblower’s manager, the board of directors and the High Court. She claims these letters contained fabricated information alleging misconduct by her in the course of performing her duties.

This is important for every whistleblower now and in the future. What I am about to say is critical and must be dealt with in the interim before this inquiry happens. The letters to the High Court were drafted by HSE solicitors at the request of a HSE senior manager. They alleged serious misconduct and requested that, owing to this misconduct, the whistleblower be removed as a court-appointed representative for her client.

“The letters suggested that the whistleblower was not a fit person to represent her client and, as a result, the HSE could not be expected to work with her. What is interesting is that another HSE manager has since provided the whistleblower with a signed statement that the information contained in those letters had been fabricated.

Why? The strong suspicion is the HSE management, about which she had made certain allegations, did not want her to have information to which she was legally entitled and did not want her to continue to expose its failures.

“She was required to get legal advice and send solicitor’s letters on her own behalf in an effort to ensure she was not removed from her position. No protections were afforded her by the protected disclosures office in the HSE. She will give full details of this and the supporting documentation to the commission of inquiry. None of this has been investigated by either of the previous reviews of these matters.

According to the whistleblower, the HSE manager who fabricated this information and sought to destroy her career has been promoted to a new post in Tusla. No disciplinary action has been taken against him.

“It is worth pointing out that she briefed the head of the HSE, Mr Tony O’Brien, about all of this last February. Neither Mr O’Brien nor anybody in the HSE has contacted her in the interim or apologised to her for their conduct.”

HSE response

A report into the Grace scandal by senior counsel Conor Dignam was published on Tuesday, after several delays.

Review of Certain Matters Relating to a Disability in the South East details the measures taken by members of the foster care home and the following actions by the HSE. The identities of those involved have been protected.

When TheJournal.ie asked the HSE about Deasy’s comments, they sent us this statement:

The Dignam Report, in accordance with its terms of reference, did not examine the substantive issues relating to care of the individuals residing in this foster home. These matters are appropriate to the planned Commission of Investigation, which will have extensive powers under the Commissions of Investigations Act 2004, to conduct investigations, compel witnesses, take testimony under oath and order oath and order documents to be produced. The HSE has stated that it will cooperate fully with the planned Commission of Investigation.

Report 

In his assessment of the HSE’s reactions to the sexual abuse allegations, Dignam concluded that the HSE had failed to investigate properly, and there were still aspects that had not been examined fully:

“These are all allegations of the most serious nature and it seems to me that they should have been required to have been inquired into fully and expeditiously in the interests of Grace, all of those other service users, the relationship between the HSE and the service provider and the persons against whom allegations were implicitly or expressly made.

Some of these matters have still not been inquired into.

“Some, such as the task of identifying any other persons who may have been placed with the former foster family, have now been looked into by Resilience Ireland, but the failure by the HSE to ensure that there could be no doubt but that this was part of the Devine Inquiry means that there was a delay of almost four years in doing so.”

The HSE has defended its decision not to publish two internal reports into the case because they were advised by gardaí to allow due process to their investigations into the allegations.

- with reporting by Gráinne Ní Aodha

Read: HSE didn’t publish reports into foster care abuse claims under garda advice

Read: ‘Some matters still not investigated’: Report finds HSE were slow to examine foster home abuse claims

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Órla Ryan

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