The HSE has been heavily criticised by junior health minister Finian McGrath for its role in the Grace case, and for delaying the setting up of a commission of inquiry into the abuse scandal, writes Daniel McConnell.
Mr McGrath said he “cried many nights” because of what happened to Grace and the other 46 disabled children and young adults who went through the foster home at the heart of the scandal.
But Mr McGrath said, in an interview with the Irish Examiner, that he was “surprised” at the reluctance within the senior levels of the HSE to co-operate with steps to establish the inquiry earlier this year.
Grace was a young intellectually disabled girl who was allowed languish in a foster home for two decades despite long standing concerns about horrific sexual abuse at the home.
“I was very annoyed and extremely frustrated for a number of months, I was very upset because my focus was on the person with the disability. I was really annoyed and eventually when we got it over the line, but yes, I was surprised at the reluctance,” he said.
He vented his fury at what he saw were the unnecessary delays in releasing two reports which allowed for the commission to be established earlier this year.
“But there was massive frustration. There were many nights I cried thinking about her, thinking if that was my daughter in that situation. It was a very emotional situation and the frustrations did boil over on occasion. The delays were unacceptable and when Conor Dignam SC looked at it and found there was no real reason for that delay, and that cheesed me off.”
Mr McGrath said he wanted to speak out but had been warned if he did so, he could jeopardise the inquiry.
“It is the downside as a minister, as to how slow things can move. But the other thing is you have to be conscious of — there has to be due process. I was constantly warned about that if I stuck my head above the parapet I could make the situation worse for Grace,” he said. “The system in here seems to go very very slowly but also from senior managers, I felt there wasn’t enough professionalism.”
The minister said the commission of inquiry, headed up by Marjorie Farrelly, will produce an interim report on Grace’s case by Christmas time. “I said to Marjorie Farrelly, ‘please do Grace first and if the others need doing, do them’. So she is doing an excellent job. She will have an interim report on Grace only, and then the commission will move on.
“Grace has to be done first. I also think we will learn a lot from the Grace case and we will know a lot which can be used for the next lot.”
The commission will cost less than €2m, he said.
This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner