A HSE-appointed independent barrister specialising in employment law has identified “a significant number of potential human resources (HR) investigations” into people who may be responsible for the Grace foster abuse scandal.
HSE director general Tony O’Brien has confirmed the development, saying that while a number of those involved have died or left the organisation, others remain in high-level positions.
In a four-page letter sent to the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last month, and seen by the Irish Examiner, Mr O’Brien said in light of the Grace scandal, the HSE has begun a detailed internal disciplinary investigation into what happened.
Mr O’Brien stressed that the investigation has not yet concluded and that officials are keen to only provide limited information so as not to negatively impact on the ongoing work of the State commission of investigation into the same scandal.
However, in the letter, he confirmed the HSE has appointed an independent barrister with expertise in employment law to review what happened, and that this individual has identified a “significant” number of HR investigations which should now take place.
“Earlier this year the HSE commenced an HR process whose objective is to achieve fair and appropriate outcomes in respect of any persons who have been identified in any of the relevant reports into the Grace case and related matters,” said Mr O’Brien.
“The independent barrister has identified a significant number of potential individual HR investigations, albeit that a significant number of the persons identified in the relevant reports are no longer subject to HSE HR procedures due to their death, retirement or transfer to different State agencies.
“The second phase was for the HSE to determine which of the individuals remains an employee of the HSE. This phase is now complete. The HSE is taking further advice from the same independent barrister in respect of the timing of any potential HR investigations.
“The commission of investigation may disclose more relevant information than an internal HR process could disclose. The HSE is therefore taking further independent advice in respect of the timing of when it can make further progress with the HR processes.”
The development is likely to place fresh pressure on the HSE to reveal the identities of the individuals involved, and to explain what if any disciplinary action has taken place to date.
At a previous meeting with the PAC in June, Mr O’Brien confirmed that an undisclosed number of HSE officials directly involved in the case are facing disciplinary action over their failure to prevent the scandal — and allegedly trying to cover up it.
However, despite criticism from a number of TDs — including Fianna Fáil’s Bobby Aylward, Labour’s Alan Kelly, the Social Democrats Catherine Murphy, and Independent Catherine Connolly — Mr O’Brien declined to identify those involved.
As revealed by the Irish Examiner in March, a number of people directly involved in the Grace foster abuse scandal still work in the HSE, while others have transferred to State child and family agency Tusla and hold senior roles.
They include one individual identified by the code H3 in Grace-related reports, who retired from the HSE in 2012 before joining the State’s child protection agency Tusla in a senior capacity in December 2013; a second person [H7], who retired from the HSE on October 17, 2010; a third [H12], who also retired on February 29, 2012; another individual [H6], who joined Tusla on December 9, 2013; and a fifth [H4], who resigned from the HSE for as yet unknown reasons on April 29, 2009.
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