Interview delays and discovery of thousands of new files postpones 'Grace' findings until May 2020

The 'Grace' investigation into claims a severely disabled mute woman suffered decades of sexual abuse at a State foster home will not make any findings until May 2020 - two years later than originally planned.

The Government "reluctantly" agreed to give the investigation a second year-long extension after the judge overseeing the independent commission into the allegations said the existing May 2019 deadline would not be met.

As revealed by the Irish Examiner last month, the Marjorie Farrelly commission asked Health Minister Simon Harris to extend the previous May 15 deadline after uncovering thousands of new documents and due to delays in interviewing key witnesses.

The commission into the case of a woman known as Grace formally began in May 2017 after the HSE admitted she suffered decades of physical and sexual abuse at a South-East foster home in the late 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.

Despite serious concerns over the home being raised in the mid-1990s, Grace was not removed from the home and remained there until whistleblowers uncovered the situation in the early 2000s.

After what happened was revealed by the Irish Examiner in reports between 2014 and 2016, the Government appointed senior counsel Marjorie Farrelly to lead a commission of investigation into the case, and 46 other incidents at the home involving other vulnerable people.

The work involved claims of health service cover-ups, political interference, and other matters. Due to the scale of the task, it asked for a one-year extension last year until May 15, 2019.

However, Ms Farrelly last month formally asked the Government to give the investigation a 12-month extension until May 2020.

It is understood extension discussions have taken place between Ms Farrelly and Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath in recent weeks over the length of delay proposed.

It had been expected an extension until the end of the year may happen. However, in a statement after the Cabinet's weekly meeting today, a Department of Health spokesperson said a year-long delay has now been agreed.

The delay means no answers will be given to what happened to Grace and why until at least May 2020, while 46 other incidents involving vulnerable people at the same home will not begin to be investigated for another year.

In her latest update report, Ms Farrelly said "significant investigative work has been undertaken" and that 973 documents containing 3,750 relevant pages have been uncovered so far, in addition to 124 witness interviews.

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