The HSE and gardaí have been ordered to release key reports into the Grace foster abuse scandal and the re-opening of Stepaside garda station by tonight amid claims they are deliberately blocking investigations, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) issued the demand as it launched a scathing attack on those in charge of the two services, saying they are trying to “weasel out” of revealing what happened.
At its first meeting since the Dáil’s return, PAC members from all parties criticised both HSE director general Tony O’Brien and acting garda commissioner Donal Ó Cualáin — who are set to be questioned at public meetings next Thursday unless the files are released.
Citing a June 15 promise to release an independent Deloitte report into allegations HSE officials cut the Grace whistleblowers’ funding by €600,000 as the scandal was uncovered, PAC members said no such document has been provided despite Mr O’Brien receiving the document on September 15.
The PAC also said Garda management back-tracked on a July 13 promise to release the methodology used to reopen the Stepaside Garda Station in Transport Minister Shane Ross’ constituency instead of other stations nationwide, a move repeatedly surrounded by political interference claims.
After Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald accused Mr O’Brien of playing “a cat and mouse” game over the Grace scandal and Labour’s Alan Kelly said TDs “smell a rat” over the Stepaside reopening, PAC chair Sean Fleming said the situation cannot continue.
In a scathing attack on the HSE and garda chiefs, he said they cannot continue to “weasel out” of revealing what happened — and gave them a deadline of tonight to release the records or face the public consequences.
“They [Mr O’Brien and Mr Ó Cualain] have attempted to weasel out of their public commitment,” said Mr Fleming. “The national parliament would not be doing its job if we allowed this to happen. We must put down a marker.”
The Deloitte report into the Grace scandal relates to allegations the HSE drastically cut the whistleblowers’ funding as the case was being uncovered.
The Irish Examiner understands this is partially because the HSE wants to receive permission to publish the report from the independent commission that is examining the wider Grace scandal.
However, PAC members yesterday stressed this permission is not necessary as the Deloitte document is a factual financial report.
The Stepaside Garda Station stand-off relates to a commitment given by Mr Ó Cualáin to the PAC on July 13 to release the methodology for the facility’s reopening before stations in other constituencies.
The gardaí have since refused to release this methodology amid ongoing questions over whether the re-opening was a “political decision” to benefit Government.
“Let’s be quite frank about this, we all smell a rat,” said Mr Kelly yesterday.
This article first appeared on the Irish Examiner.