Foster scandal: Second case is revealed

At least one more person with significant intellectual disabilities continued to live with the south-east foster care family accused of extreme sexual and physical abuse, until October 2013 —four years after officials were alerted to the scandal.

HSE director general Tony O'Brien: Emergency meeting.

The HSE confirmed last night that a second woman, now in her early 30s, was placed by a private organisation with the family before 1993, meaning she was in their care for at least two decades. The new case comes after it previously emerged that a different woman with significant intellectual disabilities, who has been given the pseudonym Grace, was accidentally left at the home until 2009, despite the fact that all placements were meant to end in 1995 due to concerns over the family.

However, despite high-profile publicity; three Garda investigations; two HSE reports costing more than €300,000, which have yet to be published; and disputed claims of a cover-up, the HSE has only now clarified that Grace was not the only vulnerable person who failed to be removed.

“Nobody was placed there after that time [Grace’s removal in 2009]. But there have been other people removed since,” said HSE director general Tony O’Brien in response to a direct question yesterday.

“What I can say is, there were persons in that home, including some who were there privately, after that person [Grace] was removed,” he told RTÉ’s This Week programme. Responding to detailed Irish Examiner questions last night, the HSE confirmed the previously unknown second woman had been living with the family since 1993 and was only removed in October 2013.

This date is four years after the HSE became aware Grace had not been removed, despite serious sexual and physical abuse allegations.

It is understood the HSE was made aware of the latest case in 2009, although the organisation did not clarify this last night. As previously revealed by this newspaper, 47 vulnerable minors with significant intellectual disabilities — including some who were mute — were placed with the foster family between 1983 and 1995.

In 1992, the then South Eastern Health Board was informed of a complaint of sexual abuse against the family, who had previously been the subject of concerns in Britain, and banned all placements in 1995.

However, Grace was left there until 2009, allegedly suffering extreme sexual and physical abuse, including rape with a blunt instrument causing life-limiting damage to her internal organs.

Since December the HSE has insisted it apologised to Grace, whose representatives lodged a civil case in 2014, which the HSE said it is not contesting. However, after being contacted by officials, said to have apologised, but who stressed this did not happen, the HSE on Saturday admitted no apology was given, due to a “misunderstanding”.

Meanwhile, Mr O’Brien will tomorrow attend an emergency meeting of the Dáil public accounts committee — which has repeatedly claimed a cover-up has occurred — after meeting Social Care Minister Kathleen Lynch today.

On Friday, the Labour TD said when informed of the case in 2014 the “first thing” she asked was to make sure no one was still placed at the home, adding that a state inquiry may be needed.

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