Government grants 12-month extension to Commission of Inquiry into 'Grace' scandal

The Government has decided to grant a 12-month extension to the Commission of Inquiry into the 'Grace' foster abuse scandal, the Irish Examiner has learnt.

At the weekly Cabinet meeting, ministers approved the extension sought by the sole member of the Commission, Marjorie Farrelly, because of the volume of work involved and a difficulty in taking testimony from witnesses.

It has emerged that a number of the families of the victims of abuse at the foster home are deeply upset at the “highly confrontational and adversarial” nature of the Commission so far.

The Irish Examiner has spoken to a number of victims' relatives who feel “utterly let down” by the tone and nature of the interviews with the Commission.

But at Cabinet, Disability Minister Finian McGrath is said to have brought a memo to Government seeking to approve the extension to the Commission.

The Commission was established on foot of reports in the Irish Examiner about the deficiencies in the care of Grace and 46 other intellectually disabled people who passed through the home in the 1980s and 1990s.

Grace, a pseudonym given to the woman, was placed with the foster family in Co Waterford in 1989 when she was a child.

She remained there until 2009, despite a 1995 decision by the South Eastern Health Board to cease using the family for placements and to remove other vulnerable young people.

Evidence of physical, emotional and sexual abuse in the house emerged at a hearing of the Dail’s public accounts committee after a social worker caring for Grace made a protected disclosure.

The commission was established after Tony O’Brien, then the director-general of the HSE, had repeatedly to correct wrong information he gave the committee, including that a written apology for her treatment had been sent to Grace.

Grace was awarded a court settlement package worth €6.3m in April 2017. Peter Kelly, the president of the High Court, said her case was “not just shocking, but a scandal” and involved “abdication of responsibility” by state agencies.

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