Gardaí investigating Michael Noonan’s handling of Grace abuse case

Gardaí investigating Michael Noonan’s handling of Grace abuse case

Gardaí are investigating Michael Noonan’s handing of the ‘Grace’ case when he was Minister for Health after receiving a complaint writes Daniel McConnell and Elaine Loughlin.

Barrister Garry O’Halloran made the complaint to gardaí as far back as February and received confirmation in recent weeks that a “comprehensive investigation” is now under way.

Mr O’Halloran, who is a former Fine Gael councillor and also a former chairman of the South Eastern Health Board, had claimed Mr Noonan did not take adequate action after being made aware of sex abuse allegations involving a child while he was health minister in the 1990s. Mr O’Halloran claimed he resigned from the party after Mr Noonan had “done a runner” in 1997 from a meeting to discuss his concerns around the allegations of abuse.

A series of reports in the Irish Examiner earlier this year have led to the establishment of a Commission of Investigation into the foster home at which a young intellectually disabled woman, referred to as Grace, was allegedly sexually abused.

An official reply to Mr O’Halloran from a senior garda commits to fully investigate his complaints: “I wish to reassure you with regard to your concerns regarding the conduct of Mr Michael Noonan TD, Minister for Health in the 1994-1997 Coalition Government and in relation to the conduct of former and present staff members within the South Eastern Health Board, the Health Service Executive and Tusla that these matters will be fully investigated.

“It is the intention of the investigation team to encompass all the aspects of this case in the course of what is proposed to be a comprehensive investigation,” the letter dated June 2, 2016 states.

In February, Mr Noonan confirmed he was made aware of the Grace case around 1996 and the matter was passed on to his junior minister Austin Currie.

“We were told that the young woman in question, or young child in question, had been removed from the foster home,” he said. “Some weeks later, it transpired that the South Eastern Health Board officials, who had made the decision, had reversed the decision for some reason.”

He also contested the account given by Mr O’Halloran stating: “I can’t be responsible for third-parties who make allegations about me which I refute.”

A spokesman for Mr Noonan yesterday said: “He has nothing to add to what he has already put on the record.”

A garda spokesman said they do not comment on named individuals.

This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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