HSE staff in Grace case ‘facing discipline process’

A number of HSE officials directly involved in the Grace foster abuse case are facing disciplinary action over their failure to prevent the scandal — and allegedly trying to cover it up.

HSE director general Tony O’Brien confirmed the situation as it separately emerged that three out of five HSE officials directly linked to the Grace case were subsequently promoted to senior roles.

At the latest Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting on the issue, Mr O’Brien confirmed while no individual has lost their job, a number are now facing a “disciplinary process”.

Responding to questions from PAC member and Fianna Fáil TD Bobby Aylward, Mr O’Brien said: “There is currently a disciplinary process” which could lead to such measures.

“There are some individuals who are currently the subject of a disciplinary process, yes,” he said.

The HSE director general declined to explain how many people are facing disciplinary action, or what positions they currently hold, when asked by Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane. Similarly, a senior HSE spokesperson did not respond to an Irish Examiner request for the same information.

However, the confirmation that a number of senior HSE officials are now the subject of internal investigations over what role they played in the decades-long scandal is likely to lead to fresh public demands for transparency on who exactly is involved.

As previously 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 were transferred to State child and family agency Tusla and hold senior roles. They have yet to be publicly named — in part because the HSE initially said no disciplinary process could take place until reports into the scandal were published earlier this year, after a two-year delay — and that identifying them now may jeopardise the ongoing Commission of Investigation into the case.

However, in a PAC meeting in early April, HSE assistant national director Ray Mitchell gave details about a wide number of individuals involved in the Grace case.

They include:

  • One individual, named in Grace-related reports as ‘H3’, 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) retired from the HSE on October 17, 2010;
  • A third (H12) also retired on February 29, 2012;
  • Another individual (H6) joined Tusla on December 9, 2013;
  • A fifth (H4) resigned from the HSE for as yet unknown reasons on April 29, 2009.

At yesterday’s PAC meeting, Mr O’Brien also confirmed under questioning from Independent TD Catherine Connolly that three of Grace officials received promotions since the case emerged. They include H3 and H7, who were promoted to unknown positions in December 1991 and June 1996 respectively.

Meanwhile, Mr O’Brien also admitted that the HSE has yet to formally apologise to the whistleblowers who revealed the scandal or their agency for allegedly slashing its funding in the period in which they highlighted the case. He said this is because the Deloitte report on this aspect of the case has yet to be published, three months after it was due.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous the length of time this is taking, 16 months’ waiting [since a report into the funding issue was first sought] is insane,” said Labour TD Alan Kelly.

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