HSE and gardaí in stand-off with Dáil committee

The HSE and gardaí are at the centre of an escalating stand-off with a Dáil committee after failing to hand over key documents into the Grace foster abuse and Stepaside garda station controversies.

HSE director general Tony O'Brien

Informed sources said both public service bodies ignored the deadline imposed by the cross-party public accounts committee to release the files by last night, putting them on a collision course with TDs at their planned meeting next Thursday.

At its first meeting of the new Dáil term last week, the PAC heavily criticised HSE director general Tony O’Brien and acting garda commissioner Donal Ó Cualáin for what they said were attempts to “weasel out” of answering key questions over the issues.

Specifically, TDs said Mr O’Brien had failed to release a Deloitte report into claims HSE officials cut the Grace whistleblowers’ funding by €600,00 as the scandal was being uncovered, despite promising to release the document during a June 15 PAC meeting and receiving the final draft on September 15.

The PAC also said garda management has back-tracked on a similar promise to release the methodology used to re-open the Stepaside Garda Station in Transport Minister Shane Ross’ constituency instead of other stations nationwide, a move repeatedly surrounded by political interference claims.

This promise was made by Acting Garda Commissioner Donal Ó Cualáin at a July 13 PAC meeting, before being reversed by garda management in subsequent days.

In response to serious cross-party concerns over the ongoing failure to release the records, PAC chair and Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming demanded both the HSE and gardaí provide the files by last night, saying the Oireachtas must “put down a marker” against groups attempting to “weasel out” of answering questions.

However, neither Mr O’Brien nor Mr Ó Cualáin adhered to the deadline, with both individuals now set to be called to appear before the PAC next Thursday to explain their actions.

While a HSE spokesperson would only say the body “is in contact” with the PAC, it is understood HSE officials believe they cannot release the Deloitte report without receiving permission from the commission of investigation examining the wider Grace abuse scandal and its related cover-up claims.

The gardaí have yet to formally respond to an Irish Examiner request made on Thursday evening to explain why they will not release the reasoning for the Stepaside reopening.

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