John Deasy: ‘Pretty twisted stuff. It’s almost Kafkaesque’

Under Dáil privilege, Fine Gael TD John Deasy claimed senior HSE and Tusla officials covered up, and continue to cover up, the Grace foster abuse scandal. His full speech is published below

John Deasy said: 'The legal advice to the HSE from day one was to make Grace a ward of court in order to protect her, but the HSE refused to do so.'

I was struck by a comment from the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee [Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming] this week.

Responding to a statement from a senior HSE official in the area of disability, Deputy Fleming said he accepted that there was no conspiracy within the HSE when it came to the issues surrounding Grace’s foster home.

I am not sure how he came to make that sweeping judgment. I am not so sure that people understand what actually happened.

Members of the Dáil should perhaps hold off from accepting anything said by the HSE on this matter. Deputy John McGuinness and myself discovered that, in dealing with the HSE on this issue, the first casualty was always the truth.

I would like to give some examples of what is, and was, a cover-up.

The legal advice to the HSE from day one was to make Grace a ward of court in order to protect her, but the HSE refused to do so.

That was because they had concerns about a judge asking ‘awkward’ questions on the HSE’s failings in this regard.

In June 2008, at a HSE committee on vulnerable adults, three options were discussed:

1. Do nothing

2. Make her [Grace] a ward of court, or

3. Give the birth mother information under a freedom of information request and risk her being made a ward of court as a result

It was noted at the meeting, and I’m quoting, that “this would lead to a disastrous day in court, as it would appear the HSE had done nothing”.

The HSE took option one, did nothing, and denied the information the birth mother was entitled under Freedom of Information.

The agency caring for Grace was then refused any information, medical or otherwise, because the HSE didn’t want the agency to discover their failings.

Conor Dignam [the senior counsel who last year published the 307-page Dignam report examining previous HSE-commissioned investigations into Grace’s care, which concluded a commission of investigation is needed] found that to be a breach in the duty of care to Grace because she suffered trauma needlessly and started to self-harm as a result.

The agency then went about making her a ward of court themselves, which would legally mandate information to be imparted and would allow a solicitor to instruct for Grace.

The HSE then told the agency not to do it, and said the agency could not take actions unapproved by the HSE.

They reminded the agency that the HSE was its sole funder.

When the whistleblower told the HSE that they were going ahead with wardship, the HSE contacted her manager and board of directors, and pressurised them not to proceed.

The HSE wrote to her line manager with fabricated information alleging poor professional conduct.

The High Court then chose the whistleblower as the legal committee for Grace.

When she again asked for information regarding medical and psychological care, the HSE again refused.

The HSE then wrote to the High Court — this is my favourite part— to say that the whistleblower was not fulfilling her duties because she did not have the proper assessments and information, even though they were the ones withholding the information.

It is pretty twisted stuff. It’s almost Kafkaesque.

Then, one HSE official then innocently gave the whistleblower a psychological report on Grace. When her HSE bosses found out, they accused her, the whistleblower, through a solicitor, of being aggressive and abusive, and not a fit person to represent Grace.

When the HSE official who had innocently provided the psychological report on Grace found out about this, she signed a statement stating this was a complete fabrication by the HSE.

For five years, the Conal Devine report [one of two reports published last week outlining the scale of abuse suffered by Grace at the foster home] sat on a shelf and the HSE refused to give it to anyone.

On March 5, 2015, the Dáil Public Accounts Committee announced it had received a disclosure about non-publication of the report.

The following day, the HSE wrote to the gardaí for the first time seeking the go-ahead to publish. That’s some coincidence, that is some coincidence.

When HSE officials appeared before the Public Accounts Committee, they told members the protected disclosures had been fully investigated when they had not been fully investigated.

They told us there were no procurement issues when Dignam found that there were.

They told us the people who decided to keep Grace in placement in 1996 had all retired when they had not all retired.

They told us the Garda had stopped them from publishing the report when they had not. They also told us they had apologised to Grace and her mother when they had not done so.

Was this a conspiracy, a cover-up? Yes, it was.

It was a concerted and organised attempt to hide information and conceal the truth by a clique of HSE managers.

This was an orchestrated attempt to protect officials and an organisation who failed people in State care in a catastrophic manner on a number of levels.

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