HSE chief Tony O'Brien admits 'Grace' official still working in public service

HSE chief Tony O'Brien admits 'Grace' official still working in public service
Tony O'Brien

HSE director general Tony O'Brien has been forced to admit a senior official directly involved in the 'Grace' foster abuse scandal is continuing to work in the public service - despite previously claiming this is not the case, write Fiachra Ó Cionnaith and Daniel McConnell.

The head of the HSE conceded the situation in a letter to the Dáil's public accounts committee last night, contradicting his previous evidence and two other attempts to clarify the issue to the cross-party group.

During evidence to the PAC in February 2016, Mr O Brien initially claimed no one involved in the 1996 three-person panel which decided to leave Grace at the home is still working in the HSE.

Last month, he repeated the position but said that in light of the long overdue publication of the Conal Devine and Resilience Ireland reports confirming a number of people connected to the case are now working in Tusla he would provide a further update to the PAC today.

In a letter to the PAC earlier this week Mr O Brien formally said all individuals who were on the three-person panel have retired and are on full pensions.

However, in a further letter to the PAC last night, seen by the Irish Examiner, Mr O'Brien admitted this situation is also not entirely accurate and that a person directly involved in the 1996 decision to leave Grace at the home continues to work in the public service.

Mr O'Brien said while he wrote on March 16 to the PAC to say no individual who was on the 1996 three-person panel is still working in the public service, an ongoing examination has found this is untrue.

He said the situation was "not straightforward" and insisted he is not trying to mislead the committee.

HSE chief Tony O'Brien admits 'Grace' official still working in public service

HSE chief Tony O'Brien admits 'Grace' official still working in public service

The letter reads:

"My letter dated March 16, 2017, provided clarification to the committee on evidence that I gave in February 2016. You required me to provide written clarification to the committee within a seven-day time period.

"In the interest of garnering as much information as possible to respond to the committee, I initiated an examination of the two matters referred to.

"While this examination had not fully concluded when my letter was sent to you [on March 16, 2017], in the interests of providing as much information and clarity to the committee as possible the examination continued after my letter was sent to you.

"In relation to H3 [the pseudonym given to an individual who was on the 1996 three-person panel which chose to keep Grace at the abusive foster home], I wish to update the committee.

"H3 retired from the HSE in 2012 and is in receipt of a full HSE pension that is recorded on HSE's pension-payroll system. It was on this basis that I stated that H3 is retired from the public service also.

"I have now established that H3 provides some specialist clinical services to Tusla on a part-time contract basis.

"This information came to my attention today by way of the examination process I initiated. This examination was not straight forward as H3 possess a number of payroll numbers, both pay and pension, across two organisations.

"In light of information that I now have, I wish to correct the record of my information to the committee on February 2, 2016.

"H3, while retired from the HSE, is currently in public services on a part-time basis in Tusla," Mr O Brien wrote.

Mr O'Brien is due to attend the PAC at 3.45pm this afternoon to clarify whether he or others misled the PAC at previous meetings over the Grace case, and to correct the record should this be required.

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