Two HSE officials directly involved in the Grace foster abuse scandal were promoted to senior roles to protect vulnerable adults at risk of abuse two years after the damning Conal Devine report was completed, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Daniel McConnell, Elaine Loughlin, and Noel Baker.
The Irish Examiner has learned that the appointments were made despite serious concerns over how foster care standards and check-ups were overseen throughout the crisis.
Details of the promotions were revealed as the HSE and Tusla confirmed they have opened disciplinary investigations into 11 employees after yesterday’s publication of the Devine and Resilience Ireland reports show two individuals central to the case were promoted after the scale of what happened became known.
And while the HSE stressed it has conducted a review of all remaining employees to assure itself no one is at risk, the revelation is likely to lead to fresh questions over whether those involved will face adequate disciplinary action.
It is understood that, after the Devine report was concluded in 2012, two of the five HSE officials involved in decisions which led to repeated failures to end Grace’s 20 years of abuse were promoted to senior roles overseeing the care of vulnerable adults.
One of these individuals was involved in the failure to adequately review Grace’s case file in 2004, which led to her being incorrectly taken off a list to find a new placement — prolonging her ordeal for five more years.
The second individual was involved in a 2008 internal HSE decision to veto plans to give the whistleblower who highlighted Grace’s case greater powers to protect her client.
The incidents are recorded in the Devine report which, while published yesterday, was made available to senior HSE managers in 2012.
However, despite this fact, in 2014 — two years after the HSE said the Devine report’s recommendations were acted on — both individuals were appointed to regional roles overseeing the safeguarding of vulnerable adults at risk of abuse.
A HSE spokesperson last night said an initial HR review has found “no issues arising at this time in relation to their current roles”, adding the appointments were made via normal public service recruitment rules.
The revelation two of the five HSE officials central to the Grace case were promoted after the scale of the scandal emerged as the HSE finally published the Devine and Resilience Ireland reports, detailing a shocking level of abuse inflicted on Grace and others at the foster home.
Speaking at a media briefing in Co Kilkenny, HSE head of operations for disability services Cathal Morgan and assistant national HR director Tess O’Donovan confirmed that five senior HSE officials are now the subject of disciplinary investigations.
However, despite the move — and separate Tusla confirmation six of its ex-HSE employees are also being investigated — the officials were heavily criticised for only starting disciplinary action now and for allowing individuals to remain in their positions while inquiries take place.
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